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Senate Panel Offers Tax Break for Support of Florida Ports

April 18, 2010 - 6:00pm

A Senate panel voted Monday to offer as much as $100 million in tax credits for investing in Florida ports.

The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed a bill that aims to improve the states 14 public ports in preparation for the widening of the Panama Canal and an expansion of trade.

This is a great step toward our future, said Jacksonville Republican Rep. Lake Ray, sponsor of the House version of the bill.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, creates a nonprofit corporation to channel money toward infrastructure improvements, equipment and expansion at Florida Ports.

The Florida Ports Investment Corporation, led by a nine-member board, will approve the tax-credit eligible projects and ensure they have lasting economic impact. It will be overseen by the state Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.

The bills tax credit offering was expanded greatly by the committee Monday. The bill, SB 1992, originally only offered credits for insurance premium taxes. Now, it offers credits for corporate income tax, sales tax and other expenses investors might incur.

As much as $100 million in tax credits will be given out over the life of the corporation, but annual disbursements will be limited to $10 million. Investors can claim credits for as much as 10 percent of their total taxes but cannot claim credits until 2013, so the bill would not have any effect on the upcoming budget.

The bill, backed by Gov. Charlie Crist, was scaled back soon after it was proposed earlier this session. It originally would have provided $500 million in insurance premium tax credits to insurers.

Sen. Carey Baker, R- Eustis, said the bill was a boon to all of Floridas ports in anticipation of the arrival of larger ships from the Panama Canal, scheduled to be widened by 2014, and the hefty, valuable cargoes they will bring from out of the state.

We know that global trade is just going to explode, he said.

The bill, whose House version is headed to the Senate in notes, would benefit the port in Rays home district of Jacksonville and beyond.

I believe that we actually have the opportunity to employ and broaden some of these resources," Ray said.

Reach Alex Tiegen at atiegen@sunshinestatenews, or at (561) 329-5389.

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