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The Associated Press March 26, 2010, 9:14AM ET

Florida Senate passes $82 million 'stimulus' bill

The Florida Senate passed a wide-ranging, bipartisan economic development bill Thursday that would provide tax breaks and other incentives for businesses, including boat and aircraft dealers and the space and film industries.

It's an effort to stimulate Florida's recession-battered economy and create jobs.

Another key provision of the bill that passed 38-0 would require contractors paid with state dollars to give a hiring preference to Floridians whose qualifications are substantially equal to those of out-of-state applicants.

The bill would cost about $82 million in the budget year beginning July 1. That figure is expected to drop to $72.4 million the following year and $39.7 million in the third year.

"If we expect any sort of harvest next year, we can't eat all of the seed corn," said Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who sponsored the measure.

The Senate bill is dubbed "Jobs for Florida." The House is considering a more modest version.

The Senate bill would offer tax credits to employers who hire jobless workers and to capital-intensive industries that add high-paying jobs.

Gaetz said a provision providing tax exemptions for boat and aircraft purchases and maintenance would enable those business to better compete with dealers in other states that already offer such incentives.

The bill would spend about $30 million on projects designed to help Florida's space industry, which expects to lose thousands of jobs when the space shuttle program ends. That includes financing assistance for new and expanding space-related companies and job retraining for shuttle workers.

Other provisions would double the state's film incentive and add digital media companies and establish a university grant program to commercialize research.

A state program to help first-time homeowners also would be expanded.

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