The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina legislators are on the verge of passing a package of special tax breaks for a handful of as-yet unidentified big businesses that officials hope will bring new jobs to the state.

The state House voted 79-30 on Thursday to approve the incentives sought by an energy turbine manufacturer, a plant converting wood pulp to paper and at least two computer data centers.

Although the companies have not been publicly identified, state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco this week said average consumers would recognize their names. The measure now returns to the Senate for final approval as early as Friday. The Senate

Media reports have identified possible candidates as Microsoft for a center in Mebane and Fidelity in the Triangle.

The proposals would drop sales taxes from the machinery, equipment, and huge amounts of electricity Internet data centers use.

The turbine manufacturer and the paper plant would receive sale-tax refunds on the building materials, supplies, fixtures, and equipment they buy.

Legislative fiscal analysts had estimated the proposal would cost the state about $39 million in uncollected taxes. But the true cost would never be known because data center operators would not have to report the sales taxes they haven’t paid thanks to their exemptions, analysts said.

"This is corporate welfare," said House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake.

Business boosters, however, said the foregone taxes are modest compared to the 1,200 jobs and $2 billion in investments they would generate.

"I would urge you to vote in favor of this bill if you support jobs," said Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, whose district is said to be in the running for the paper mill.

The measure also allows state business recruiters to extend by up to four years a big employer’s deadline to meet hiring goals and still collect the maximum under a tax rebate program.

The two data centers would account for about 250 jobs and $1.75 billion in investment, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, said after sponsoring the measure in May. Those estimates suggest two data centers slightly larger than the vast server farms that Google and Apple have placed west of Charlotte in the past two years.

Data centers are big collections of Internet servers able to process tremendous amounts of data traffic. IBM, SAS and American Express also have built such server farms in recent years.

They are expanding as technology migrates to the concept of cloud computing, where information that once was kept on individual computers is stored in data centers run by third parties, making it cheaper to use and available anywhere whenever it’s demanded.

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