The Dolphins need a change in state law for both pools of public money. Facing a tax-averse state Legislature and a Miami-Dade legislative delegation that left the stadium measure off its list of 2013 priorities, the team sees the referendum concession as key to getting the legislation passed.
“We’ve got great momentum there now,” Dee said of Tallahassee. “Early feedback since this news broke over the weekend has been enormously positive. This should put this legislation, we hope, on the fast track.”
Under the Dolphins’ plan, state lawmakers would still need to approve the change in state law allowing the higher hotel tax and Florida subsidy. But only the hotel-tax change would be contingent on a Miami-Dade referendum, Dolphins lobbyist Ron Book said Monday.
State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat, issued a statement after Monday’s announcement calling the referendum a “positive” move, though he said other concerns remain.
“While Miami-Dade voters would weigh in on a new hotel tax, they would not be allowed to weigh in on added state subsidies, which are also part of the proposal,” Rodríguez noted.
Gimenez said he would not call for a referendum until he has approved a financing deal with the Dolphins. “We haven’t started negotiations. It doesn’t mean a deal is going to be done,” Gimenez said.
At least three county commissioners have called for team owner Stephen Ross to pay for the special election, which Gimenez said would cost between $3 million and $4 million. Gimenez said state law prohibits a private company from funding an election, though racetracks indirectly reimbursed Broward and Miami-Dade counties for the nearly $7 million spent on a special election on gambling in ’05.
“Ross absolutely should be paying for this election,’’ Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo said Monday. “Is it fair for taxpayers to be asked to do this, in a timetable that is so crunched now?”
Ross, who recently signed a letter of intent to co-develop Miami’s Watson Island, was on a business trip in Brazil on Monday and did not attend the press conference. Except for a press conference in January, the billionaire real-estate developer has left the public campaign to Dee, who made the Dolphins’ case at a recent Florida Senate hearing and before county commissioners. The Dolphins have gathered backing for the proposal in recent weeks from business groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors and Doral Business Council on Monday.
Without a special election, the Dolphins would have to wait until August 2014 to let voters endorse the stadium plan. The county needs 60 days’ notice for a referendum, meaning the language for a May vote must be approved by commissioners in March.
Miami Herald staff writer Adam H. Beasley contributed to this report.