Terry McAuliffe said while campaigning for governor that he'd be a booster of biotechnology.
McAuliffe unveiled a platform aimed at helping Virginia biotech companies move from the stage of simply having an idea to making a viable business out of it.
"Terry McAuliffe proposes … increasing the current limit on investment tax credits for commercialization," McAuliffe said in the written platform that he released Aug. 1, 2013. "The current limit of $5 million … should be increased by an amount between $1 million and $2.5 million depending on budget conditions, with the increase specifically targeted to biotechnology and biomedical companies."
McAuliffe, in his platform, focused on increasing the overall amount of credits the state makes available each year for investors who provide cash or take out debt to help launch Virginia-based high-tech companies -- including those in the biotechnology field.
That credit is given for investments in biotech companies that don't have gross revenues exceeding $3 million per year and is geared toward businesses that commercialize research that was developed in partnership with colleges and universities.
The tax break, known as the "angel investor" tax credit, started in 1999. It provides a state tax break of either: $50,000; the amount of an investor's annual state income tax bill; or the amount of the tax credit that state tax officials approve -- whichever is the lowest of those three amounts.
The $5 million limit that was in place when McAuliffe made his vow remains in effect today.
Jennifer Lee, Virginia's deputy secretary of health and human resources, said McAuliffe still is considering boosting the maximum amount the state provides each year for that tax credit.
But Lee said McAuliffe hasn't done so yet because his administration is in the midst of a broader review of the state's biotech grants and incentives.
Lee said the governor wants to see which incentives are most effective in growing Virginia's biotech industry before deciding whether to boost the annual limit of the angel investor tax credit. She added that his administration "wants to make sure we use every single dollar in the most effective way."
"We do believe the angel investor tax credit is helpful, but we want to evaluate that in the context of all the other incentives," Lee said. "The governor is really committed to growing bioscience."
Christina Nuckols, a McAuliffe spokeswoman, noted the governor hosted an April conference in Chantilly that brought together academics, researchers and others to discuss ways to boost the Virginia bioscience industry. The governor recently traveled to a Georgia conference to seek ways that the state can attract bioscience investment to Virginia, Nuckols said.
Last year, McAuliffe signed a measure that increased the annual amount the state provides for a different tax credit -- a tax break that reimburses companies for research-and-development costs.
That measure increased the overall amount the state can pay out from $5 million a year to $6 million a year. Lee said there was a greater urgency to address the fate of that research-and-development tax credit, because it was a temporary tax break that was set to expire.
It had been set to sunset this year, but the law McAuliffe signed renewed the research-and-development credit through 2018 and boosted the amount of R&D expenses a company can claim.
It's geared not only to biotech companies, but it is available to businesses in that field. It can be useful for biotech companies that spend the majority of their costs in their early years on research and development, said Jeff Gallagher, CEO of Virginia Bio, an association representing biotechnology companies in the state.
So McAuliffe still is weighing his options for how to grow the biotech industry before deciding whether to boost the annual limit for the angel investor tax credit. For now, we'll rate this a promise that's In The Works.