Except For Budget Gap And Pending Layoffs, State Of Miami-Dade Is 'Strong'

Feb 26, 2014

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez speaks to reporters after his State of the County address.
Credit Doug Hanks / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared the state of the county "strong" in his annual address on Wednesday, save for one $200-million detail.  

Miami-Dade County is the nation's seventh-largest county. It has an international profile; a hot real estate market and a thriving arts, sports and entertainment culture. And all of that, Mayor Gimenez said in his address, enables his government to serve the people through the lens of economic opportunity.

And then there's the estimated $200 million gap in the budget for next year.

Gimenez said it's the result of a county commission decision to override his veto and to end to a 5-percent deduction from worker paychecks to help pay for health care. Now, he says, balancing the budget will almost surely require layoffs. So while county workers got their 5-percent pay back, in the end, they might lose their job.

After his speech, Gimenez made clear where he thought the blame lay: "We were counting on that 5-percent contribution to be maintained. That was part of the budget; the commission knew that. Unfortunately, they gave that 5-percent contribution back to the employees."

We were counting on that 5-percent contribution to be maintained, says Gimenez.

Gimenez opposes using financial reserves to plug the budget gap.

The rest of the address was upbeat and focused on big projects. He's encouraging the city of Miami Beach to press ahead with its restarted plan to build a new convention center.

And Gimenez believes, in fact, there's room in the county for another. In a brief interview afterward, the mayor said he thinks that second convention center could be in downtown Miami.   

The Miami Herald reports that the mayor was endorsing the Miami WorldCenter project but that most convention centers operate at a loss. Even the Miami Beach convention center gets $4 million a year in county hotel taxes. 

Gimenez said the county is also concentrating on linking Miami Beach to Miami with a light rail system to be called BayLink. And they’re still searching for a site for a stadium to house a Major League Soccer team fronted by David Beckham.

Scroll below for live tweets by the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei and others on the Mayor's speech.