This report – Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America’s Public Services – highlights examples from Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin where governors have sold the public interest to private firms.
• FLORIDA: When Florida Governor Rick Scott took office in 2011, he promised sweeping changes in prisons, health care and education. During his tenure, he went on to privatize state health care services for prisoners resulting in a significant increase in inmate death. His privatization of Medicaid services benefited the bottom line of private HMOs, who spent $2.54 million lobbying, while shortchanging the most needy. He also signed bills into law requiring every high school student to take online classes, aiding private firms Pearson, K12 Inc., Connections Academy, and Kaplan, which have spent $2.357 million on lobbying in the state.
• KANSAS: After his inauguration in 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback immediately began to slash core government services and privatize the rest. In the words of one critic, he used citizens as “crash test dummies.” Among other things, he outsourced child support services to YoungWilliams, whose CEO is a campaign donor. Brownback’s austerity politics resulted in the state being downgraded by S&P in August 2014, and have caused a mutiny among fellow party-members.
• MICHIGAN: With Republicans in firm control of both houses of the legislature, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has advanced an extreme privatization agenda. When private contractor Aramark took over prison food services in the state, one scandal followed another: from maggots and food poisoning to sexual encounters and murder for hire. Bills introduced by ALEC legislators have resulted in the number of online K12 Inc. schools skyrocketing, despite the fact that these schools fail to educate children as well as public brick-and-mortar schools. But Snyder remains firm in his support.
• OHIO: Governor John Kasich has also pursued an extreme privatization agenda, using state liquor revenue to bankroll a privatized economic development agency. Taxpayers are losing out on millions in revenue each year, but the private agency is producing few jobs. He has also pushed prison privatization, creating Ohio’s first private prison and serving up more maggots with prison food contractor Aramark. Further privatization of public schools is also on the menu in Ohio, where Kasich campaign contributor White Hat is busy evading open records and accountability and transforming public money into private assets in a controversial case before the state’s Supreme Court.
• PENNSYLVANIA: Despite a promise to make school funding a top priority, Governor Tom Corbett cut education funding by close to $1 billion during his tenure and expanded charter schools run by private companies. In his attempts to uphold a repressive voter ID law – later declared unconstitutional – he paid millions to outside law firms last year that were also some of his biggest campaign donors. Other big spenders in his 2010 campaign were Wal-Mart and local gas station chain Sheetz, two companies that stand to benefit from the governor’s planned privatization of liquor stores.
• MAINE: Maine Governor Paul LePage has repeatedly vetoed bills that would expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Mainers, referring to the expansion as “ruinous.” However, his efforts to prop up his agenda with research showing the cost-efficiency of privatization backfired. LePage awarded consultancy firm Alexander Group a $1 million no-bid contract for reports on Medicaid outsourcing. When one report turned out to be full of erroneous data and plagiarized passages, there was no getting the $474,760 already spent back. LePage also continues to facilitate efforts by Nestlé/Poland Spring water, which has spent more than $100,000 lobbying the legislature in this small state, to pump precious public water for private gain.
• WISCONSIN: Since being elected to office in 2011, Scott Walker has waged a campaign against most things public. He has done so by privatizing the state’s economic development functions, generating grants for donors but few jobs. According to one report, Walker donors ended up getting 60 percent of the funding even though they only made up 30 percent of the recipients.