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Jack Latvala now supports $250 million business incentive plan

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In a move that combines policy goals with political pragmatism, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday told reporters he’s championing Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for a $250 million business incentive fund in next year’s state budget.

Latvala said he would recommend the pot of money to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which he chairs. The panel meets Monday afternoon.

It’s an about-face for the Clearwater Republican, who’s slated to be Appropriations chairman next year under to-be Senate President Joe Negron.

As recently as last week, Latvala questioned the need for a “Florida Enterprise Fund.” The incentive money and $1 billion in tax cuts is Scott’s big request to lawmakers for 2016-17. The money wouldn’t be an annual request and is expected to last “several years,” according to officials.

Also, state economists recently predicted there could be $400 million less in revenue for next year’s state budget.

Now, “we have enough money for that,” Latvala said, referring to the incentive fund, “although we’re going to have to trim some other things,” adding that member-driven projects might take a back seat in the budget building.

“I think there will be less member projects than last year,” he said.

“We’re all on the same team, we all want to produce jobs, but we still have a ways to go on what’s going to be in the final bill” that includes the new fund. He expected that legislation to take shape within two weeks.

“We want to give him the tools he needs for business recruitment,” Latvala said of Scott. “… We’re going to put it out there and tell America the money is there.”

“By taking a significant step forward to work with the governor, I hope we are improving the overall climate of his decision-making,” he said, a not-so-subtle reference to the governor’s veto power over budget line-items.

When asked whether his decision is more “olive branch or philosophical agreement,” Latvala said, “It’s a combination of both.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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