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.