Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Scotts and Two Pairs of Cities

Rick Scott, the new Republican Governor of Florida, is reconsidering his decision last week to turn down S2.4 Billion dollars in federal stimulus money for high speed rail service between Tampa and Orlando.  The cities are about 80 highway miles apart.  That distance sound familiar?

The reason for reconsidering?  Scott arranged to meet yesterday with Ray LaHood, President Obama's Secretary of Transportation,  to work on securing assurances from LaHood that the state wouldn't be on the hook for long-term liabilities.  Now there is a good idea for a governor worried over operating costs!

Here is Candidate Walker back in February, 2010:

"Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said Thursday the state should pass up the federal government's offer of $823 million for a high-speed rail line linking Milwaukee to Madison and Chicago - unless millions more for operating the line come with the deal.

That's unlikely, he said. Based on what's known about the high-speed rail plan, Walker said he would reject the federal largess.

The county executive, a Republican candidate for governor, said he might back the high-speed rail idea if "there was a model that could be shown where it was self-sufficient, where the operating costs were covered by the users." He acknowledged that also was unlikely."

Here's Governor - Elect Walker on November 3:

Gov.-elect Scott Walker, hoarse from his election night celebration, was optimistic on Wednesday that Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project could be stopped and that highway construction projects will move forward under his administration.

“I believe there are a couple of legal options for us,” Walker said during an interview. “We’ve had offers from lawyers coming out of the woodwork. They think we can slow it down or stop it entirely.”

As for road construction, Walker said he’s looking for ways to move forward with projects despite the $250 million shortfall in the state’s transportation budget.  (Wonder who the Wisconsin Road Builders Association supported?)

Governor-Elect Walker on December 8, 2010 after the Feds found him tiresome:

In a meeting with reporters in Waukesha, Walker called the decision (whereby the federal government gave Wisconsin's allocation of $810,000,000 to a number of other states) a "victory" because he sees the rail line as a symbol of excessive government spending.  (He was already thinking he was in charge of the federal budget?)

"That's the decision they've made and we're going to move forward," the Republican governor-elect said.
Even with the federal government paying all construction costs, Walker has said he didn't want state taxpayers to bear any of the operating costs. The state initially estimated those costs at $7.5 million a year, after subtracting fare revenue, but revised ridership estimates could have cut taxpayers' share by $2.8 million. The state also could have used part of its federal highway funds to cover 80% to 90% of the taxpayer share.

The key is the last sentence. Governor Walker is a road builder.  Too bad he isn't a bridge builder.

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