In his first term in office, the son and brother of former presidents introduced his “Service First” reforms to remake much of the state’s workforce. Bush successfully stripped Florida’s 16,000 career managers and supervisors of due process protections by turning them into at-will employees. Also during his governorship, Bush changed the policy for “cause” from a specific list of fireable items to the much broader “sound discretion of an agency head.” He coupled those policies with a directive to all state agencies requiring them to issue blueprints for reducing their workforces by 25 percent.
Florida had already ranked 50th in the nation among states in spending in government salaries per citizen, but Bush successfully trimmed the number of state employees by 25 percent within five years. In his book on the Bush administration titled “Jeb Bush: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida,” author Robert E. Crew wrote that Bush used the agency reduction plans to justify leaving vacancies unfilled. He even hired an “efficiency czar” to ensure wasteful spending was eliminated. As part of the Service First package, Bush allowed agencies to use 20 percent of the savings from a phased-out employee toward boosting the salaries of the remaining workers.
Bush offered a reminder of his penchant for firing government workers last month, when he criticized the Obama administration for not firing more employees at the Veterans Affairs Department in the wake of the waitlist manipulation scandal.