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Atwater: Summer special session to help ailing businesses not a bad idea

Senate President Jeff Atwater told the Herald/Times today that he has asked Senate staff to look at what the legislature can do to help businesses crippled by the oil disaster and believes a summer special session on tax breaks and financial assistance could happen.

The "target spot'' on the agenda, however, would not be to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot (as Gov. Charlie Crist has sought) but to "provide support or relief of those enterprises that have lost revenue because of the incident,'' Atwater said.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has asked the Department of Revenue to identify things the state can do to assist businesses now facing difficulties paying their taxes because of the slowdown in business during their peak tourist season. DOR chief Lisa Echeverri told the governor and Cabinet Tuesday that one way would be to pass a law for emergency property tax relief for businesses whose taxes are due in the fall but were assessed before the oil incident. Atwater thinks its worth considering.

"I think there would be a place for us by the end of the summer to help our small businesses in Florida,'' Atwater said. He said he thinks the House, which has resisted the special session, "would be inclined as long as the target is real solutions,'' he said. "They just seem to think the conversation has been about motives that have been politically driven.''

A summer special session also helps Atwater, a Republican candidate for chief financial officer, and other candidates on the statewide ballot stay in the limelight during Tallahassee's slow months. Crist is running for U.S. Senate without party affliation and Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum are opponents in the governor's race. 

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