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Tax break lands before first jet

State lawmakers give DayJet Corp. a last-minute exemption worth up to $1-million a year without a hearing or a Florida takeoff of the air taxi service.

By STEVE HUETTEL
Published May 2, 2006


A week after unveiling plans to launch its air taxi service in Florida, DayJet Corp. is poised to receive a state sales tax exemption worth up to $1-million a year.

On Monday, the plan received a warm, bipartisan reception in the Florida Senate, where it was attached at the last minute to a bill providing a sales tax exemption to advertising sent by mail.

The House quietly approved an identical measure to its companion bill last week. That means Senate passage, expected as early as today, would send the measure to Gov. Jeb Bush, who is expected to sign it.

"This is a recognition that our commercial airspace and landing rights in metropolitan areas are overcrowded,'' said state Sen. Ron Klein, a Democrat from Delray Beach, home to DayJet's headquarters. "This will allow business travel to land in more localized areas.''

No one explained why the measure never received a hearing before a legislative committee, even after Senate Minority Leader Les Miller, D-Tampa, raised the question.

"I understand what you're saying about regional airports,'' he said.

"But my concern is here we are again giving a tax exemption to a company that hasn't even started yet. It's a bad precedent. It's bad public policy.''

DayJet officials did not return telephone calls for comment.

Bush spokesman Scott Openshaw said exempting sales tax on the purchase of the five-seat "microjets'' DayJet will fly is just giving the company the same break airlines that fly big commercial aircraft receive.

"This is an innovative company with cutting-edge technology that has the potential to change the face of business travel throughout Florida,'' Openshaw said.

By the fourth quarter, DayJet will begin flying between five Florida cities, company officials said last week. Within a year of the launch, DayJet plans to connect 20 cities in four Southeastern states.

The company will target business travelers willing to pay as much as three times full coach fare to fly direct to cities with little or no commercial airline service.

Unlike far costlier jet charters, however, DayJet will sell single seats for trips that a customer might share with one or two other travelers.

The service will attract more customers from cars than from commercial airlines, DayJet officials say.

Delta Air Lines, the largest airline in Florida, does not oppose the tax break for DayJet, said Blake Poole, the carrier's general manager of public affairs.

"It's a niche that's very much needed within the state of Florida,'' he said.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

[Last modified May 2, 2006, 06:45:56]


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