Legislation to seek out bold new aerospace businesses for the Space Coast is in a temporary stoppage in the countdown, on hold in the House as the bill’s author works to patch a perceived glitch in the state’s economic projection for spaceports, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.
The anticipated one-week delay comes as Florida’s grasp on being America’s launching pad faces mounting competition from Texas.
SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk told a Texas House Appropriations Committee last Friday that the Lone Star state is now the front-runner for his efforts to create a more bureaucratic-free commercial orbital launch facility.
“Right now, Texas is in the lead,” Musk told the Texas lawmakers, according to the San Antonio Express News.
Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, put the hold on his bill (HB 135) before an appearance before the House Transportation and Economic Development on Tuesday. Goodson is challenging an assumption by state economists on the negative fiscal impact of creating a spaceport at the Space Coast Regional Airport.
The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference has projected that a spaceport would result in at least a $100,000 a year hit to state revenue by offering tax exemptions on machinery and equipment tied to aerospace activities.
Goodson disputes the economists’ model for assuming that the aerospace-related businesses would come to Florida regardless of the incentives.
“If we could get past this one hurdle it would be the best thing for my county,” Goodson said. “Would it generate millions of dollars today? No but it would give them the opportunity to attract people and jobs.”
The spaceport would be the fourth for Florida.
The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kennedy Space Center are federally-owned spaceports.
Cecil Field Spaceport is operated by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and Cape Canaveral Spaceport is operated by Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development agency that has been charged with rebuilding the Sunshine State’s space industry, which is facing decline because of the recent end of the shuttle program.
Musk’s comment further heightens the existing competition for space-related businesses from the Lone Star State as well as Virginia, Georgia, California and Puerto Rico.
“It concerns us greatly,” said Jerry Sansom, Chairman of the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority.
“When you look at the Texas legislature, they’re taking him very serious that they’re going to do everything they can to sweeten the pot.”
The San Antonio Express News reported Musk has his eyes on Boca Chica Beach, 23 miles east of Brownsville, where there would be space to build and launch the rockets.
“We’re talking about something that’s really in the big leagues here,” Musk told the Texas Legislators. “We’re talking about the commercial version of Cape Canaveral.”
Musk’s comments came the same week as the second successful resupply mission of his Space X (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station.
This flight is the second of at least 12 SpaceX cargo resupply missions to the space station through 2016. The resupply contract with NASA is worth $1.6 billion.
The Senate version of the bill (SB 848) has already been unanimously supported by the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee, and goes before Community Affairs on Thursday.