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Sources: Mayor, Fins Agree No Tax-Funded Stadium Without Vote

MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – If your tax dollars will be used to build a new stadium for the Dolphins, voters will have to approve it, according to sources with deep knowledge of the controversial plan.

Team executives and Mayor Carlos Gimenez agreed on a stadium referendum for tax dollars, reports CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. The announcement is expected on Monday.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, the Miami Gardens Democrat sponsoring a bill to bring Sun Life new state and county subsidies, will change the proposed legislation to require a countywide vote on the plan, a source familiar with the Dolphins' lobbying efforts said. The Dolphins and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez plan to announce the referendum agreement Monday, sources said.

The Dolphins hope to get the issue before voters by May 22, when the NFL is expected to pick the host city for the 2016 Super Bowl. The Dolphins have cited that game, the 50th in NFL history, as the reason to push for a quick decision on tax dollars to pay for about half of a proposed $400 million renovation.

By agreeing to a referendum, the Dolphins would test the lingering backlash against the 2009 deal that gave the Florida Marlins a new ballpark largely funded by taxpayers. The Dolphins see their plan as more palatable, since Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has agreed to use private dollars to pay for at least $201 million of the project, with state and county funds paying for no more than $199 million.

The money would come from a $3 million state subsidy for Sun Life and increasing the county's tax on mainland hotels to 7 percent from 6 percent. The Dolphins have proposed the same hotel-tax hike in prior years. A Miami Herald poll in November found 84 percent of respondents were against spending tax dollars on the stadium, but that was before Ross' pledge to use private dollars for a majority of the work.

Details were sketchy Saturday on how the vote would actually work. Braynon would alter his bill to allow the higher Miami-Dade hotel tax if approved by voters. State lawmakers, who have already proved skeptical of a higher hotel tax for the Dolphins, would still need to change state law to allow the tax hike and for the $3 million yearly subsidy for Sun Life.

Team executives and Gimenez declined to comment Saturday. Braynon declined to talk about the bill, but said he and others have pushed the Dolphins to allow a referendum. When he announced the proposed financing plan on Jan. 14, Ross said the pending Super Bowl decision left no time for a vote.

But the Dolphins face a tough road in Tallahassee, with a tax-averse, Republican-controlled Legislature. Last week, Miami-Dade lawmakers caucused to agree on the county delegation's priorities, and the stadium bill did not make it on the list.

A majority of county commissioners, however, endorsed the legislation on Jan. 23 — and tasked Gimenez with negotiating with the Dolphins to avoid a deal lopsided in the team's favor, as critics say happened with the publicly financed ballpark for the Miami Marlins. Gimenez was elected mayor after stridently opposing the Marlins deal.

The mayor's calendar shows he met on Jan. 28 with Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, and on Feb. 1 with Ross.

Last month, Gimenez said he would welcome a public vote on the Dolphins' plans.

"I think they probably should go to referendum, but do we have the time? I don't know," he told The Miami Herald on Jan. 17.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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