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Florida Marlins stadium plan progresses


Published :
Thu, 15 Mar 2007 20:45
By : Agencies
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - State taxpayers would pay $60 million over 30 years to help build a retractable-roof stadium in Miami for use by Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins, under a bill approved unanimously Thursday by House and Senate committees.

In what has become a perennial issue before the Florida Legislature, supporters of the new stadium are seeking the state's help in an existing agreement between the Marlins, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County to build the new ballpark.

The team, city and county have committed to paying $460 million of the $490 million project. The remaining $30 million would come from bonds backed by the $60 million in state money.

The effort has been thwarted in previous years because of reluctance from many to use state taxpayer money to subsidize wealthy owners and highly paid athletes. Former Gov. Jeb Bush was against the idea, but Gov. Charlie Crist has said he supports the use of state money because he believes it spurs economic development.

While many lawmakers still don't wholly agree with it, they are comfortable with the latest bill because it requires the Marlins to pay for any unexpected increase in the project's budget. It also requires the Marlins to fork up the money if they leave the city before 30 years.

And for a modest investment from the state at $2 million a year, there will be an $8 million to $9 million increase in sales-tax revenue from building the new stadium, the bill's sponsor said.

'This is a win-win situation that I am certain we'll be proud of years from now,' said state Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah.

Despite voting for the bill, Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and other members of the Senate Finance and Tax committee told supporters of the plan they want to see hard numbers showing how much economic development the stadium would bring. And they also expressed skepticism about using tax money for wealthy businessmen and athletes, who have threatened to leave Miami for another city if the money doesn't come through.

'The perception is, what in the world would we be doing allowing any dollars to go back into the mechanism to create the job for a person who is making that much money, or for an ownership group who may make that much money off the arrangement,' Atwater said.

The House Economic Development committee approved the bill with a 9-0 vote.

There are also competing plans in the Legislature.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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