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He Didn’t Get The Memo

Republican message discipline is breaking down: Senator criticizes Florida’s privatization initiatives

TALLAHASSEE — The state’s decision to consider a no-bid contract extension for a controversial human-resources company has renewed criticism from a leading state senator who says privatization initiatives have cost taxpayers $200 million with little to show for the money.

Senate budget chairman J.D. Alexander persuaded fellow lawmakers during the spring legislative session to increase scrutiny of large state contracts — only to see Gov. Charlie Crist veto the proposal last week.

As attorney general, Crist in 2006 persuaded a court to seal a whistle-blower complaint by a former Convergys employee. A judge criticized Crist as an unjustified “interloper” in the case. And the former employee filed an ethics complaint, alleging Crist became involved because his top fundraiser, Brian Ballard, is a Convergys lobbyist.

Both denied wrongdoing and the ex-employee’s complaints were dismissed.

Troublesome contracts have bedeviled other agencies, as well, Alexander said. He cited other costly-yet-problematic contracts including those for a child welfare management system and an electronic-imaging system for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Senator Alexander obviously didn’t read the memorandum telling GOP office holders that privatization is always the best option, and allowed himself to be swayed by the facts. He doesn’t realize that he lost his chance at higher office when he gets term-limited out.

Florida spends more to do less than any state I have ever lived in. If you want low taxes then don’t outsource functions to companies that cost more than the system you replaced, while providing a lower level of service. You certainly don’t renew contracts after the companies have demonstrated their inability to do the job.

Another problem is that once you have signed the contract, you can’t reduce the cost until the contract expires. This means that state employees are facing layoffs while the jobs of contractors are secure. To the maximum extent possible, Florida tax dollars should be spent in Florida, providing jobs for Floridians.