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Gulf Coast businesses get $8b in tax breaks

Measure aimed at revitalization

WASHINGTON -- Congress passed nearly $8 billion in tax breaks for Gulf Coast businesses yesterday, but denied federal help for casinos, liquor stores, and golf courses.

Almost four months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast, destroying businesses and eliminating jobs, lawmakers responded to President Bush's appeal for revitalizing the region with a special enterprise zone.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill by voice vote yesterday. Bush called the measure an important part of his plan to help the Gulf Coast rebuild.

Representative William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, said the tax breaks will make a major contribution to restoring and rebuilding New Orleans. ''It'll help to get our local government back on its feet, and it'll help to get our businesses incentivized to come back," he said.

The tax breaks for business investment are aimed at luring companies to the region and keeping those that are already there. Companies can use a tax credit to defray salaries if they kept employees on the payroll even while shut down because of storm damage.

Numerous recreational businesses would be prohibited from using the special tax breaks. The list puts limitations on country clubs, casinos, hot tub facilities, liquor stores, massage parlors, golf courses, racetracks, and tanning parlors. A narrowly drawn exception, preventing taxpayer dollars from subsidizing gambling, means that companies could consider their hotels and restaurants apart from attached casinos and take advantage of some of the tax breaks.

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