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Scott's bid for $250M job incentive fund gains steam in Senate

Gov. Rick Scott's request for a new $250 million fund to attract jobs gained support Monday from a key Senate committee in the first of many needed steps for Scott to secure one of his top priorities from the Legislature.

A Senate budget subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, included the $250 million in his budget proposal in the Quick Action Closing Fund program in the Department of Economic Opportunity.

"It's important that we in the Senate send a loud message that we're all on the same team. We all want to produce jobs," Latvala said. "This is obviously a big priority of the governor's. He's pretty single-minded."

Latvala said the gesture was partly philosophical and partly an olive branch to have better relations with the executive branch than in 2015, when the Senate and Scott were repeatedly at odds and Scott vetoed hundreds of Senate-backed local projects.

The money would be to attract companies to Florida over the next three years. Not yet decided is how the money will be doled out. Latvala and his panel favor a "pay as you go" approach to spending closing fund money that Scott opposes.

DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor scaled back a controversial proposal by her predecessor, Jesse Panuccio, to form a sworn police force in the agency to investigate fraud cases involving the theft of jobless benefits. Proctor said DEO will seek fraud investigators instead.

Senate and House budget committees are holding multiple meetings in the session's third week as they round their numbers into shape. Both chambers' budget proposals will be released on Friday, Jan. 29.