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    Senate approves corporate tax break

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 4, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate passed a controversial corporate tax break Friday, paving the way for final negotiations on the state's $49-billion budget.

    After voting on the $262-million tax break, the Senate approved its budget and ordered a negotiating team to iron out differences between that plan and one approved Thursday by the House.

    The corporate tax break was a key element in a budget deal Gov. Jeb Bush worked out between the House and the Senate.

    The Senate passed the corporate tax break 22-18; 21 Republicans and one Democrat voted yes.

    "People are going to make investments that they wouldn't have made, and we're going to recover the sales tax from it," said Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden. "It's an incentive to purchase things that you wouldn't otherwise have purchased."

    Four Republicans and 14 Democrats voted no, saying the money corporations would save was needed to pay for schools and health care.

    "We have 40 kids in a classroom who can't get the attention of their teacher," said Sen. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, a leader of a citizens' initiative to require smaller classes.

    The tax break is expected to clear the House easily.

    Lawmakers from both houses now must agree on which pet projects to fund in the budget, as well as whether to give extra money to some universities, including the University of South Florida, where funding has historically lagged behind larger universities.

    The joint House and Senate conference committees also must decide whether to fund a current list of local road projects or let the Department of Transportation pick different road projects and whether to privatize the state's human resources functions, among other items.

    -- Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

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