The Miami Dolphins, and two Miami-Dade Republican legislators, suffered a symbolic blow on Thursday night to their push for taxpayer subsidies to renovate Miami's Sun Life Stadium, as the Miami-Dade GOP narrowly passed a resolution condemning the effort as just so much corporate welfare.
The Republican Executive Committee of Miami-Dade County express their staunch disapproval of siphoning $120 million from Miami-Dade taxpayers, and $47 million from Florida taxpayers, for multibillionaire Stephen Ross, reads the resolution, which passed by a vote of 37 to 34 committee members. Taxpayers should never be the source of corporate welfare for billionaires, and should not be responsible for the funds to renovate Sun Life Stadium for the Miami Dolphins.
Sources tell Sunshine State News that opposition to the stadium funding was nearly unanimous, though committee members were sharply divided over the perceived harshness of the resolution and over whether it was appropriate for the county GOP to issue resolutions opposing Republican-backed legislation in the first place.
[Read the full resolution, which is attached to this article.]
Thursday evening's debate among Miami-Dade REC members was a kind of proxy for a battle being waged by two prominent South Florida billionaires: Stephen Ross, majority owner of the Dolphins and of Sun Life Stadium; and Norman Braman, owner of Braman Honda car dealerships and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who has taken to radio, television, and the print media to voice his opposition to the issue.
I've never received corporate welfare, nor have I ever asked for it, Braman told Sunshine State News shortly before Thursday night's vote. I don't believe in using public dollars to subsidize an individual who is the 83rd richest American. I feel that like any other entrepreneur or business person who wants to improve an asset, he should pay for it himself.
The resolution puts the Miami-Dade GOP at odds with two members of its own delegation, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, sponsors of HB 165 (Professional Sports Franchise Facilities). But it places the county party, one of the state's largest Republican executive committees, firmly on the side of other members of their delegation, like Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami.
The Miami Dolphins are currently seeking via HB 165 up to $199 million in state and county subsidies: a new $3 million per year sales tax rebate and an increase of the countys tax on mainland hotels from 6 percent to 7 percent. The bill was amended Wednesday to require the Dolphins to pay back some of that.
Neither Fresen nor Gonzalez responded to repeated requests for comment before this story went to press.
Grassroots Republican activist Manny Roman, a Miami-Dade GOP committeeman who is running for the vice chairmanship, spearheaded the drafting and adoption of the resolution. He tells SSN it's all about two words: corporate welfare.
[HB 165] is taxing regular folks to pay approximately 50 percent of the renovation costs for one of the richest men in the United States, he explains. We're drawing a line in the sand, and now people have to decide: are they going to side with big government and corporate welfare, or are they going to side with the grassroots?
REC Chairman Nelson Diaz opposed bringing the matter up at Thursday's meeting.
The local parties are not policy-oriented; the local parties exist to elect Republicans, he told SSN. It's one thing to discuss policy; it's another thing to pass resolutions embarrassing fellow Republican legislators.
Diaz would not disclose how he voted on the resolution; a motion by activists to hold the vote by oral roll call was defeated 41 to 29.
Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews or at (954) 235-9116.