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Jack Latvala, budget writers “horse trading in public” on member projects funding

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Tallahassee’s withering June weather seems to have made sunshine fashionable again in the Florida statehouse.

As House and Senate lawmakers confer over the weekend to reconcile their disparate budget proposals, transparency is the tool of choice for some key budget writers.

Going against the usual appropriations grain wherein budget priorities are wheeled and dealt among lawmakers in private, conference subcommittee co-chair Sen. Jack Latvala, for one, is naming names and forcing public decisions in this year’s budget.

Asked about his move to “link” together House-sponsored projects in Senate’s recent Transportation & Economic Development budget offer — forcing a choice between one related project or another — Latvala told assembled press following a Sunday afternoon meeting:

“I wanna bring some of these issues to a conclusion. They want things, I want things — rather than trying do it, you know, out of the sunshine or over the phone or whatever, I’m just trying to do it out in front of God and everybody.”

A little good old-fashioned horse trading in public view, a day after American Pharoah won horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 37 years.

That’s in keeping with the spirit of Rep. Ben Albritton‘s comment today during a meeting of the General Government/Agriculture and Natural Resources budget conference, responding to a question about why sponsors are required to list their names next to member-requested water projects as part of a new House process on that budget silo, initiated by House budget chief Richard Corcoran.

“Maybe you’re not the person to ask this,” began Democratic Sen. Oscar Braynon, who is seeking to bring home state dollars from his seat on the panel. “I just wondered why that process with the members and everything. Maybe I need to ask chair Corcoran but you mentioned it so maybe you know the thought process behind why a specific member’s name on it as opposed to, ‘it’s for the state.'”

“My understanding is, it’s about transparency,” responded Albritton, and ensuring “at the end of the day, if you’re interested in a project, you’d be interested enough to put your name on it. And if you’re going to fight for it, be interested enough to put your name on it. So you’re certainly welcome to ask chair Corcoran any questions you might have, Senator, on why he did that, but that’s my understanding. And certainly as the chairman of the House, I support his position.”

In the end, Latvala — the Florida Senate’s Dark Star — said the push for more openness and accountability is all about getting finally getting a long-delayed budget in the books.

“You know, I’m a flexible guy. I just wanna do what my colleagues on the committee wants to do, what the consensus is from them. That’s why I asked their opinions.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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