Amendment added to stadium-financing bill requires Miami vote
By Paola Iuspa
A bill that would extend Miami's parking surcharge to help finance a baseball stadium won approval from another House committee Tuesday but now carries an amendment that the issue go to voters in a citywide election.
The next City of Miami election is scheduled Nov. 6.
While the Florida House Committee on Fiscal Policy & Resources Tuesday OK'd the proposal to continue the surcharge for 40 years, the Senate's Bigger Appropriation Committee passed the sales tax rebate bill that seeks to promote development on contaminated sites. The latter would help repay the county for building the stadium on a brownsfield site near the Miami River.
In all, the proposed financing plan includes $75 million from county bonds, $122 million from state sales-tax rebates, $26 million from the parking fees and $118 million in convention development taxes.
City of Miami officials have said they plan to use part of the funds from an extended surcharge to buy about 20 acres of privately owned land on the northern bank of the Miami River. The city would then provide the land to Miami-Dade to build a $385 million stadium. Another chunk would help pay for stadium-construction costs.
Under prevailing conditions, the 20% surcharge - created in 1999 to replenish the city's coffers after the state declared Miami in financial emergency - would expire June 30, 2006.
The bill, which needs to go through one more House committee, places the parking-fee issue on the ballot during a regularly scheduled election. Miami City Manager Carlos Gimenez said there was time for it to be placed on the November ballot.
Legislators adjourn May 4, so will have to consider the plan before any city election on the surcharge, an integral part of the package.
A city report said about 80% of those who pay the surcharge live outside Miami. Rep. Annie Betancourt of Miami said she wanted a countywide referendum. But Rep. Kenneth Allan Gottlieb of Hollywood, the bill's sponsor, said that was illegal.
Once extended, no less than 10% and not more than 20% of the surcharge would be used for infrastructure improvements, Mr. Gottlieb said.
The surcharge generated $11 million in 2000 and is projected to raise $13 million annually for the next three years.
The House's bill to extend the surcharge was sponsored by Ron Silver of North Miami and has one more committee hurdle to jump before a final vote, said legislative aide Kelly Mallette. The bill passed by the Senate Bigger Appropriation Committee and sponsored by Alex Villalobos of Miami also has to survive another committee before going to the floor for a vote.
The rebate bill aims at assisting counties that want to build, renovate or expand a professional sports facility on a brownsfield site within the boundaries of a local government with a population of 300,000-plus that has been declared in a state of financial emergency at least seven years before construction of the venue starts. The facility has to be owned by a county and operated by a private for-profit group. Construction cost have to be not less than $300 million, of which no less than $50 million will come from the lessee, according to the proposed bill.
The House bill calling for a sales tax rebate has survived all House committees and is waiting to go before the House floor for a final vote.