Rich, Gardiner clash over tax proposal and prison privatization

Feb 3, 2012

The latest in a controversial debate over a prison privatization plan has two Senate leaders butting heads. As Sascha Cordner reports, the spat is over a comment that the potential cost savings from privatizing about 30 South Florida prisons could lead to hundreds of jobs for teachers.

During a recent Senate Floor session, Republican Senator John Thrasher outlined why privatizing prisons could be a good thing:

“18-million dollars actually would hire about 302 school teachers. Now, you can convert that into Medicaid, or you can convert it into some other program, but that’s what we’re talking about on a recurring basis.”

But, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich says it’s comments like that, which serve to pit correctional officers against teachers….meaning for 300 teachers to get a job, thousands of correctional officers need to lose theirs.

She says Senate leadership should stop talking about a potential cost savings that may not even be there.  Instead, Rich says they should pay more attention to legislation, like hers, which she claims would produce about a half-a-billion dollars for jobs.

“We know by taking up Senate Bill 1590, or others, like the closing the internet loophole that there is revenue definitely availably there. It’s not questionable. It’s not putting anybody out of their jobs. Let’s go where the true revenue is, not the false revenue, but where we know there’s revenue, let’s take that to pay for those 300 teachers.”

Rich says Senate Bill 1590 aims to close a tax loophole that large multi-state corporations receive, and Florida-only companies don’t.

But, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner says there’s a clear reason why Rich’s legislation has not been heard in any committees.

“To be quite honest, her idea that that she’s brought forward is a huge tax increase on the businesses of Florida. We want to be very prudent. And, on the issue of prison privatization, the one thing the President has said is if we do privatization, and it has all the criterias that we put in place, it could potentially save between 16 and 20 million dollars a year. That’s money that you can put into healthcare. That’s money you can put into education. We’d like to see the Minority Leader work with us on issues like that as opposed to something that really has no hope of passing in the Senate.”

Though some proponents say privatizing prison could save the state millions, some prison experts have said it’s unclear what the actual savings could be because no study has been done on a prison privatization effort of this large a scale.