Budget staffers from Gov. Rick Scott’s office were not on speaking terms with Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, on Tuesday, and might not be for some time.
Fasano, who chairs the Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, said he was notified through Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ office that Scott’s budget staffers would not present his budget recommendations before the committee.
Scott budget aide Bonnie Rogers was harshly questioned by Fasano before the committee last week over Scott’s recommendation to cut 619 corrections officers from the budget and was scheduled to make another presentation Tuesday. Fasano called it “childish.”
“I’ve been a legislator for 17 years and at times I ask some very tough questions. If those tough questions have scared off the governor and his staff from answering those questions, I have great concerns,” Fasano said.
Agency heads from various departments will still come before Fasano’s committee, and Fasano will still have a chance to question Scott’s budget staff from his position on the full Budget Committee.
Still, Fasano isn’t pleased that those helping to craft Scott’s budget proposals appear to be ducking his questions.
“I’ve never seen a governor in my history of being a legislator -- and I’ve been through Governor Chiles, Governor Bush, Governor Crist and of course now Governor Scott -- I’ve never seen where a governor has told his staff not to come before an appropriations committee to present the governor’s budget,” Fasano said.
Sunshine State News' repeated attempts to contact the governor's budget staff were not answered.
Fasano’s main problem with Scott’s budget for the Department of Corrections is a proposal to add more prisoners to the rolls of the state’s private prisons, which he says are already maxed out. Meanwhile, state-run facilities have about 10,000 extra beds.
Advocates for private prisons, however, contend that competition among private companies ensures incarceration is done more cheaply than in state-run prisons and that oversight measures like unannounced audits and contract monitoring provide accountability.
“If they do a bad job, they aren’t going to get new jobs and that’s sort of a key part of this,” Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, told the Budget Committee.
Where some see market forces ultimately driving savings, however, Fasano simply sees waste.
“What the governor is doing is letting those private prisons expand at the expense of the taxpayers,” he said.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.