Commentary

Prison Privatization Failure in Florida Shows Clout of Union

The failure of a signature privatization effort for Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week was a telling sign of the continued clout of unions in the policy marking process. Gov. Scott and his supporters in the legislature tried to keep the debate about sound management. In fact, Scott’s proposal even said no privatization would occur unless the state could save a minimum of 7 percent.

Unfortunately, an opposition that included all Democrats and nine Republicans successfully carried the day by arguing, in effect, government is really a big jobs program. As the Miami Herald reported (Feb 24, 2012):

“Senators debated privatization for nearly three hours, and opponents’ floor speeches often showed more passion. Rather than talk about numbers, they talked about people, such as the treatment of correctional officers, whose starting salary is $34,000 a year and who have not received an across-the-board pay raise for the past six years.

“What’s wrong with state employees?” said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. “We should be taking care of them, rather than kicking them under the bus.”

“Prison guards displaced by privatization could have “bumped” less experienced officers from their jobs upstate. But, Jones said, with the current housing crisis, many are trapped in their homes and couldn’t sell them if they wanted.”

While some argued that the savings were “unproven,” the reality is that savings can never be “proven” unless the services are actually put out for bid in the first place. Nothing required the state to privatize even the savings weren’t there in the proposals.

For more, see the Reason Foundation policy study by Len Gilroy and Adrian Moore Corrections 2.0, Len’s recent review on corrections privatizations for our annual Privatization Report, and my recent podcast with Capitol Vanguard.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.