The Last Governor

Back in January 2003, Jeb Bush dreamed of emptying out goverment buildings in Tallahassee. This commemorative scrapbook includes the greatest hits from the ensuing four-year parade of privatization.

Bush calls for more faith, less government

January 10, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Standing on the steps of Florida's old capitol, Jeb Bush was sworn in today to his second term as governor and promised to continue shrinking the role of state government through privatization.

"In the past, our response has been to raise more taxes, grow more government, and embrace the thin fiction that if only we can hire one more social worker or complete one more form, then we can somehow reverse corrosive trends and salvage these lives," Bush said during his inaugural address, referring to the 50,000 children in the custody of the state. "[W]hen we accept personal responsibility for ourselves and those we love, we don't have to invent government programs that apply complex rules to matters better addressed by profound human caring."

Bush surveyed the skyline surrounding him, then said, "There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers, silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill."

Toward that end, he called on Floridians to "build a life based on faith, friends, and family." Eviscerating those offices, however, will be a journey of "many steps," he added.

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DCF puts out a contract on kids

July 13, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Jerry Regier announced today that the beleaguered agency would be dismantled. Much of the department's responsibilities will be turned over to private organizations, local charities, and law enforcement agencies. Regier expects the implementation of the "Plan for Reforming the Social Services Business Partnership" to take 18 months. More than 3,500 union jobs could be affected.

Gov. Jeb Bush privatized the human services programs in 12 counties during his first four-year term. Under the new plan, the DCF would simply monitor the work done by local contract providers. All cases of child abuse and neglect will be turned over to law enforcement agencies.

During his inaugural address in January, Bush spoke of his aspiration to empty state buildings of workers; the dismemberment of the DCF is just the latest effort to do so.

Bush's devotion to privatization began well before he was elected governor. After losing the gubernatorial election to Lawton Chiles in 1994, Bush recruited Jonathan Hage to study educational ideas for his new think tank, the Foundation for Florida's Future. Hage, who had previously worked for the conservative Heritage Foundation and helped write speeches for the first President Bush, became director of research for the Florida foundation, which helped open the state's first charter school in Liberty City. Recognizing the money-making potential of charter schools, Hage founded Charter Schools USA in 1997 in Fort Lauderdale. By 2002, the for-profit company had 900 employees and ran 11 schools in Florida and six in Texas, with annual revenues of about $40 million -- most of it taxpayer money.

In 2001, the state awarded a $60 million, five-year contract to Aramark, a Philadelphia-based food services company, to manage meals at most of the state's prisons. The contract affects about 500 state employees.

Last year, Bush gave Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp. a $480 million deal to manage the state's personnel work for seven years. About 800 nonunion jobs will be eliminated.

Late this January, Bush proposed eliminating the State Library of Florida as part of the new state budget. The library's collections of almost a million books, microfilm images, and other documents would be transferred to Florida State University. About 55 unionized employees would lose their jobs.

Bush recently proposed phasing out the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, a state agency that represents death-row inmates. He would replace it with a group of private lawyers.

The governor has support in high places for his privatization plan. Days after Bush's inaugural address, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City told fellow Republicans, "We have to help Jeb Bush empty out those buildings."


July 13, 2003

INGLIS, Fla. -- Following services today at Spring Lake Sixth Baptist Church, Gov. Jeb Bush announced his latest faith-based initiative, Holy Roller Highways.

"As John the Baptist was so fond of saying, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord,'" Bush told the congregation of 35. "And I can't imagine who would be more spiritually equipped to keep our state's highways maintained and running smoothly for the Second Coming than you, my Christian brothers and sisters."

Concluding the speech with a nod toward Old Testament devotees, Bush raised his arms and quoted from Isaiah 35:8: "A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it."

The governor's words were greeted with loud "amens" from members of this, one of eight Baptist churches in a town of 1,400. Inglis is best-known for its mayor's proclamation in 2001 banning Satan from the hamlet.

The arrangement brings to an end the Florida Department of Transportation's long-time role in managing state highways and bridges. During the next 22 months, those duties will be entrusted to fundamentalist parishes across the state, with headquarters at the Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.

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