MIAMI -- The controversy over legislation to tax Port of Miami
cruise passengers for a planned $400 million Florida Marlins
baseball stadium here heated up, as cruise lines readied a
six-figure media campaign to counter an advertising blitz by the
The industry's campaign was slated to be aired on television and
radio and in the print media within days, matching a campaign
launched by the Marlins last week, said Michele Paige, president of
the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
Commenting on the industry's campaign, Paige said: "It will get
everybody who knows and deals with the travel industry involved. It
will put a human face on the issue, showing that it involves the
livelihoods of the people who work next door."
In another development, the Miami Dade County Commission, which
administers the port, unanimously passed a resolution opposing the
passenger tax. The media battle intensified as the Marlins brought
former all-star players Andre Dawson and Tony Perez to the state
capital in Tallahassee to sign autographs for legislators.
FCCA chairman Rick Sasso also held a press conference there,
warning legislators that the proposed tax would imperil 6,700
cruise-related jobs in Miami and a combined direct economic impact
of more than $1.7 billion.
Under the plan, cruise passengers would pay a $4 per day head
tax, or $56 per couple on a seven-day cruise, to subsidize the $400
A new port authority board would issue bonds for the project and
be empowered to raise the tax to as much as $8 daily in order to
pay off the bonds.
The legislation (SB2346), introduced by state Sen. Ron Silver
(D.-North Miami Beach), also calls for the plan to be approved by
Miami-Dade voters in a referendum during the November
In spite of the controversy raging over the bill, battle lines
among politicians are still in a preliminary stage. Although local
county commissioners have voiced opposition to the plan, members of
the area's legislative delegation in Tallahassee have not yet taken
a public stand.
At the same time, the Marlins major league baseball franchise
has put together a large corps of powerful lobbyists to push the
Paige, who denounced the plan as a threat to the viability of
the cruise industry in Miami, noted that the the new stadium is
unrelated to the promotion of the cruise and travel industries.
"Should this tax pass," she said, "it will undoubtedly deal a
severe economic blow to Miami-Dade County, something it does not
Observing that the cruise industry is one of the area's key
economic engines, she said the industry purchases more hotel rooms
and attraction tickets than any other industry here.