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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Space tax takes off after US vote
By Stuart Cohen
BBC News, Washington

Richard Branson will base his space tourism business at the spaceport
Residents in the US state of New Mexico have approved a new tax to build the nation's first commercial spaceport.

Supporters including billionaire Richard Branson and New Mexico's governor had called the tax vote a make-or-break election for the port.

But others say the money should go towards improving local problems and resent having to subsidise the activities of wealthy space tourists.

Taxes will contribute about $50m (25m) in to the nearly $200m project.

Revenue expected

Dona Ana County is a relatively poor and bleak swathe of desert in southern New Mexico with fewer than 200,000 residents.

But voters passed a 0.25% increase in the local sales tax to help contribute to the cost of building Spaceport America.

Sir Richard Branson has signed a long-term lease with the state of New Mexico to make the new spaceport the headquarters of his Virgin Galactic space tourism business.

The spaceport is expected to open in 2009, and Virgin Galactic says space flights will cost around $200,000 for a 2.5-hour flight.

Supporters of the new tax say the spaceport will bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in space tourism revenue to the area.

But critics of the tax plan say the money could be better spent on existing county problems.

The area is already home to a Nasa testing facility and was the site of the first nuclear weapons test back in 1945.

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