A bill that would continue providing tens of millions of dollars in state tax breaks to a Navy shipbuilder is getting support from Maine lawmakers.
The Senate voted 25-9 Wednesday to provide a tax credit to Bath Iron Works. The bill faces more legislative action before being sent to Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
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The latest version of the bill provides $45 million in non-refundable tax credits over 15 years, down from $60 million over 20 years, as originally proposed. The bill would prevent Bath Iron Works from also qualifying for Pine Tree Development Zone benefits, another state tax incentive program.
The shipyard, which employs 5,500 workers, says it wants to stay competitive against Ingalls, a Mississippi shipyard, as it bids for up to 20 frigates to supplement its contracts for larger destroyers. The shipyard has said it plans to use the millions of dollars that would otherwise go to the state to maintain its facilities and invest in its workforce.
Republican Sen. Dana Dow said he doesn't know whether the shipyard or parent company, General Dynamics, needs the tax break, but said Maine must do what it can to help the shipyard win contracts.
"All we know is what the others states are doing," Dow said.
Ingalls, which is a larger shipyard with twice as many workers, leases its land from the state for less than BIW pays in property taxes; receives millions in state bond money; and doesn't have to deal with harsh winter weather, Bath supporters say.
"If someone's not making you money, why would you hold onto them?" said Bath Iron Works production planner Logan Russell, a South Portland resident.
Several Democrats and Republicans praised the bill, including Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson who said he supported the tax credit because it'd support investment in Maine. Republican Sen. Eric Brakey, who is running for U.S. Senate, praised the bill for taking less money from Maine businesses.
Bill opponents include Democratic Sen. Justin Chenette, who deemed it "corporate welfare" and called for the shipyard to provide financial information proving they need the money. Democratic Sen. Michael Carpenter asked how much General Dynamics would benefit from President Donald Trump's tax cuts recently passed by Congress.
"Not every corporation needs a hand-out," Chenette said. "Where is the line in the sand?"