(a) The exercise of the powers granted by this article will be in all respects for the benefit of the people of the state, for the increase of their commerce and prosperity, and for the improvement of their health and living conditions, and as the operation and maintenance of projects by the public port authority will constitute the performance of essential governmental functions, the public port authority shall not be required to pay any taxes or assessments upon any project or any property acquired or used by the public port authority under the provisions of this article or upon the income therefrom, and the bonds issued under the provisions of this article, their transfer and the income therefrom (including any profit made on the sale thereof) shall at all times be free from taxation within the state.
(b) In lieu of payment by the public port authority of county property taxes and other assessments on facilities owned by it, or upon any facility which is leased to any private person, corporation, or entity, the public port authority shall make an annual payment as provided herein to the county commission of such county. Any public port authority project which is leased and is exempt from taxation shall be subject to a payment in lieu of taxes. Said payment shall be made to the county commission of the county in which the project is located and shall be in an amount equal to the property taxes otherwise payable. The county commission receiving such in lieu of payment shall distribute such payment to the different levying bodies in that county in the same manner as are property taxes. Nothing contained herein may be construed to prohibit the public port authority from collecting such in lieu of payment from any private party by contract or otherwise.