A trick play only works if the defense doesn’t know it’s coming. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is asking for $200 million in taxpayer funds in order to renovate the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, including an exemption on sales taxes for goods sold at the stadium, estimated at $90 million over 30 years. The Dolphins and Ross are seeking to siphon off sales tax revenue that could otherwise be allocated to improve public education, provide better access to affordable healthcare and improve infrastructure.
Ross wants the help of the Florida Legislature and Miami-Dade County to consummate the deal quickly. Unfortunately for us, our community is still reeling from the Miami Marlins Stadium, considered the worst stadium deal for taxpayers in America. If this proposed stadium deal were up to us: we say, no way, no how!
Our community has been led to believe that Ross will personally, “make the initial and most substantial investment in this project.” Our community is being duped because Ross’ so-called investment would come partly from the NFL “G4” Loan Program. To qualify for the low-interest “G4,” the cost of the stadium renovation must exceed $450 million and there must be a public-private partnership where a public entity (Miami-Dade County and the Florida Legislature) commits to financing $200 million. Repayment of the loan is made with the increased revenue from the newly renovated premium seating that our community would finance. This contradicts how Dolphins officials have been pitching this to our community.
We have been told that the Dolphins stadium deal is necessary to make us competitive in Miami’s bid for Super Bowls 50 and 51. We are also told that we have to get this deal done before the May 22nd meeting of the NFL owners.
The current proposal calls for a deal to be struck in Tallahassee and then hold a special election referendum that will cost Miami-Dade taxpayers between $3 million and $5 million. This can mean that a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money would be given to the Dolphins after a low-turnout special election. The most recent poll published by The Miami Herald shows that 73 percent of county residents oppose a taxpayer funded stadium renovation. Why would we be asked to conduct the public’s business in such an irresponsible way?
The stadium deal is not economic development. This is simply a sham designed to increase Ross’ shareholder value of the Dolphins franchise. State and local taxpayers should not transfer their hard-earned income to a private citizen. Even if some of the exaggerated economic development numbers are accurate, Ross, post taxpayer funding, would increase his net worth by $200 million.
If we truly care about economic development and investing in Miami-Dade County’s future, we should not be considering another taxpayer-funded stadium deal. There have been no arguments why $200 million to the Miami Dolphins would yield a better long-term return for our economy than investments in public schools, higher education or better access to healthcare. One thing is for certain, “just because somebody is wealthy enough doesn’t mean he should invest money in a way that is unwise.” Not a problem, Mr. Ross, just let taxpayers invest their money in a way that is unwise.
Florida Rep. Michael Bileca, R-115, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-105, Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-112