Governor aims to spend $55M on space ventures

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 10:55 p.m.
Gov. Jeb Bush will ask the Legislature to spend $55 million, including a $3 million sales tax break, to attract new federal and private space ventures to Florida during the next budget year, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said Wednesday.
Jennings, who chairs the Governor's Commission on the Future of Space and Aeronautics in Florida, also announced the panel's final recommendations.
They include creating a new public-private agency called Space Florida, improving technology, engineering, science and math education to support the space industry and working to establish a commercial spaceport separate from federal lands at Cape Canaveral for spacecraft that take off from runways.
"We know we are going to send men and women to Mars and beyond," Jennings said at a news conference. "They need to be coming from Florida and coming back to Florida."
Bush's proposal dwarfs the $3 million in space spending for the current budget year ending June 30.
Most of the new money would go for attracting launch, assembly, maintenance and other activities associated with NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle, or CEV, that will replace the Space Shuttle after its 2010 retirement.
Bush has spoken to both contractors bidding for the CEV, Lockheed Martin and Boeing/Northrop Grumman, and offered $35 million to refurbish buildings at Cape Canaveral and for work force incentives, Jennings said.
A complete sales tax exemption for space-related machinery, equipment and research and development and other parts of the plan are designed to attract commercial ventures, including space tourism. Florida now exempts 25 percent of such purchases.
Other spending proposals include $4 million for space-related education programs, $2 million to create a Center for Math and Science Education and $11 million to support Space Florida's operations and implement other recommendations.
Space Florida would be a public-private partnership funded with sales taxes collected at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It would consolidate three existing agencies: the Florida Space Authority, the Florida Space Research Institute and the Florida Aerospace Finance Corporation.
Florida is competing mainly with Alabama, Texas, California and New Mexico, where officials have proposed a $225 million spaceport, for CEV and space tourism activities.
Bush's proposal is on par or a bit below the other states, but Florida doesn't need to spend as much because it already has extensive infrastructure and expertise in and around Cape Canaveral, said commission member Jim Banke, vice president of the Space Foundation's Florida operations and director of the Coalition for Space Exploration.
"We're talking about the quality of the dollar we're going to spend, not the quantity," Banke said. He said Florida can offer more with $55 million than New Mexico with $200 million.
Space Adventures of Arlington, Va., is looking at launch sites in Florida, New Mexico, Texas, California, Hawaii, Australia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the Bahamas, said president and CEO Eric Anderson.
While the former Cecil Field Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Homestead and sites in the Panhandle are in play, Anderson said Cape Canaveral remains the leading Florida candidate. He said he was pleased with Bush's proposal including the tax exemption and reducing bureaucracy.
"Every piece helps," Anderson said. "It's all in the details."

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