NFL commish, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross watch as Senate approves stadium dealby Dara Kam | April 29th, 2013
The power players worked the Capitol in behind-closed-doors meetings with House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville; and Gov. Rick Scott before the Senate’s 35-4 vote, the last thing the Senate did before adjourning for the evening. Gaetz voted against the measure (SB 306).
Goodell said he came to Tallahassee to “demonstrate my support” for the deal, which would make the stadium eligible for tax breaks for the $350 million upgrade if Miami-Dade County voters approve. Early voting on the referendum began today.
“This is important for the NFL,” Goodell told reporters after the vote. “We all are working hard to get the stadiums improved. I think the deal that’s structured here is very intelligent and I wanted to demonstrate my support.”
The taxpayer-backed upgrades could boost Miami’s shot at hosting the Super Bowl, Goodell said.
“When you have a better facility, that’s an important element and going to improve your chances,” he said.
During debate on the measure, Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, argued against the plan, saying it “allows millionaires and billionaires to tap into taxpayer dollars.”
Goodell said he disagrees.
“This bill is structured in such a way as to creative investment in communities and create additional revenue going forward. I think that’s a very positive thing. I think this is a very intelligently structured deal,” he said.
The stadium upgrade doesn’t guarantee a future Super Bowl because the site is selected by the 32 NFL team owners, Goodell said.
But, he said, the stadium is a major part of the application.
“That’s a big element. And this is going to clearly improve that application, which improves the chances dramatically,” Goodell said.
Under the proposal, professional sports franchises that meet certain criteria would be eligible for up to $13 million a year in tax breaks if they can demonstrate that they can generate at least that much in sales taxes and if local voters first approve. The state Department of Economic Opportunity would have to first sign off on the plan, which would then require legislative approval. Teams have to show that they will attract out-of-state tourists, and the plan would have to be reviewed every five years.
“If you don’t raise the money in the time period…you have to pay it back,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “This is not giving anyone anything. This is telling someone you have to make money with this money and you have to give it back to the state of Florida. So I don’t see this as welfare to billionaires.”
The Dolphins stadium tax break is far from a done deal, however. The House has to also agree to the plan before the session ends on Friday, and Weatherford has expressed doubt about it. Scott has also said he wants strict safeguards included to protect taxpayers’ money.