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In op-ed, Jack Latvala blasts House zeroing out of incentives fund

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State Sen. Jack Latvala, who will become Appropriations chair next year, blasted House leadership as “ideologues” for refusing to fund Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund.

Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who now heads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, penned an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times on Friday morning.

Latvala backed Scott’s request for a pot of money to lure businesses and their jobs to the Sunshine State. But the House’s GOP leadership has declined to put any money into it.

A final budget is due Tuesday on lawmakers’ desks in time for a mandatory 72-hour “cooling off” period so they can vote on Friday, the last scheduled day of the 2016 Legislative Session.

“Sometimes I am amazed at how short the memories are of some of my colleagues in the Legislature,” Latvala wrote. “It was only a few years ago that Florida faced double-digit unemployment and the state’s budget was in the hole. It was in Gov. Rick Scott’s term that we got back all the jobs that were lost in the recession and then some.

“I suppose since Florida’s economic picture became rosier, the calls for job growth have softened,” he added. “What we’ve seen now are a bunch of ideologues running state government who have ‘philosophical’ issues with Enterprise Florida.

“Well, I’ve got my concerns too — and that’s why I’m trying to do something about it. But no’ isn’t a plan, and that’s all that’s been put forward to date.”

Indeed, Latvala’s support, which came in late January, was an about-face for him. As recently as mid-January, Latvala was questioning the need for the fund.

The incentive money and $1 billion in tax cuts were Scott’s big requests to lawmakers for 2016-17. The incentives money wouldn’t be an annual request and is expected to last “several years,” according to officials. But so far, next year’s state budget has no money for incentives and less than half of Scott’s requested tax cuts.

After a budget chairs meeting Friday, House budget chief Richard Corcoran was asked about the op-ed. Latvala also wrote if the plan to nix the funding goes forward, Florida may soon “have an economic development program that mirrors that of a Third World country.”

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, told reporters he hoped Latvala wasn’t including his own son – state Rep. Chris Latvala, a freshman GOP lawmaker also from Clearwater – in his diatribe.

“I think Chris Latvala is a wonderful kid,” Corcoran said with a grin. “I wouldn’t say that about him.”

Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica and Ryan Ray contributed to this post.

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