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Atwater says yes to talking fees but no to gamble compact in spec session

Senate President Jeff Atwater said late Thursday that while he is not ruling out increasing fees on some government services -- such as courts -- during the special session, he is not prepared to take up the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.

"It is more complex that the timing of the special session allows," Atwater told the Miami Herald. "The problem is, any decision we may may have consequences to the existing industries."

After we said that Atwater was also open to a discussion of the cigarette tax during special session, his aide called back to clarify -- he misspoke, said Jaryn Emhof. He is prepared to take up cigarette taxes during the regular session, not special session.

Atwater and the governor spoke by phone about Crist's economic development proposals for special session, he said, but he would have to "evaluate the trade off'' required to pay for them.

"I would applaud him on that but my concern is those would be precious dollars that you might well be needing to keep something else going," Atwater said. "I don't know where that source of cash is coming from."

The North Palm Beach Republican said that when he and House Speaker Ray Sansom release the special session agenda in the next few days, he would like it to include the option of increasing some fees.

"We're now spending dollars we do not have," he said. "I believe there will be an open debate on some revenue'' during the special session.

Atwater said that he is also open to reviewing all tax exemptions, as long as removing them "would not be harmful to job creation", but he prefers to wait for that debate until the regular session in March.

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