Will The Career Criminal Angry Florida Voters Just Elected Governor Get Run Over By A High Speed Rail Decision He Made Yesterday?
On the first day of the month we looked into the political strategy Republicans were using to undermine President Obama (and America) for the sake of their political ambitions. A highly regarded, forward-looking initiative to bring high speed rail to the country is being derailed by ideologically extremist Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and, most recently, Florida. And all for partisan effect-- regardless of the fact of the disadvantage it puts their states in the short term (jobs) and the long term (infrastructure and competitiveness).
Ray LaHood was a mainstream conservative congressman from Illinois before President Obama appointed him Transportation Secretary. He's been working closely trying to persuade his fellow Republicans that high speed rail is too important for them to cast aside because they want to see Obama fail as president. His comments when Rick Scott announced his decision to reject the federal funds were devastating:
“We are extremely disappointed by Governor Rick Scott’s decision to walk away from the job creating and economic development benefits of high speed rail in Florida. We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses. It is projects like these that will help America out-build our global competitors and lay the foundation needed to win the future. This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida’s highways. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida’s funding and the economic benefits it can deliver, such as manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as private development along its corridors.”
The chairman of the House Transportation & Transportation Committee, John Mica, is very conservative. His lifetime Progressive Punch score on crucial votes is a dismal 2.12, even to the right of fanatically right-wing Florida colleagues like Jeff Miller, Bill Young, Cliff Stearns, Connie Mack, Gus Bilirakis, Bill Posey, Mario Diaz-Balart and Vern Buchanan. According to the Orlando Sentinel he urged Scott to change his mind.
“I am deeply disappointed in the decision to not move forward with the Orlando to Tampa passenger rail project,” Mica said in a statement. “This is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development, and important tourism industry.
“I have urged the Governor to reconsider going forward and allow the private sector to assume the risk and any future costs for the project. I made this appeal to the Governor this morning. With the federal government assuming 90% of the cost of the project, I am disappointed the private sector will not have an opportunity to even offer innovative proposals to help finance the balance of the costs and to construct and operate this system.
“I will continue to work with the Governor and all those interested in developing cost-effective 21st century transportation alternatives for Florida and the nation, with systems that can improve quality of life and help meet our future transportation needs.”
The Sentinel speculated that "the normally pro-rail Republican majority in the Florida Legislature may be biting their hands to avoid bashing Gov. Rick Scott today, following his decision to return $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money to Washington." Pam Iorio, Mayor of Tampa, called it "a terrible decision, truly the worst decision I've ever seen by a governor in my 26 years in public life." Hard for anyone paying attention during the 2010 election campaign not to have been able to see this coming down the tracks 10 miles away.
My favorite comments came from Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. Like Democrats in Wisconsin-- and in DC, of course-- they know the best chance the Democrats have to regain power is for the Republicans to let it all hang out and overplay their hands and not be shy about what sociopaths and extremists they are. As tragic as it is for Florida, Scott's decision is probably good for the Florida Democratic Party. Jotkoff:
“Over the past month Governor Rick Scott has become a one man wrecking crew for Florida’s economy, putting at risk over 100,000 jobs as he tries to impose his extreme philosophy on the Sunshine State.
"Gov. Scott’s rejection today of high-speed rail not only ends the hope of less congestion on our roads for Central Floridians stuck in I-4 traffic every day, but also stops a critical investment in Florida’s infrastructure that will cost our state 71,000 job-years.
"Between the Governor’s actions today and his budget, which promised pink slips to tens of thousands of police, firefighters, and teachers, Rick Scott is putting Florida’s future at risk."
UPDATE: Florida Editorial Boards Finally Unmask Rick Scott
Virtually every big newspaper in Florida has been pounding Scott nonstop for his boneheaded rejection of Florida's future. Here are a few:
St. Petersburg Times: Train wreck of a governor: "Gov. Rick Scott rashly acted in his own political interests and sacrificed the best interests of Florida Wednesday by rejecting federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. It is a reckless, devastating decision that has nothing to do with the merits of rail and everything to do with Scott's obsession with courting the tea party movement and fighting the Obama administration."
Tampa Tribune: Scott is very wrong on rail: "Gov. Rick Scott has said for weeks that his acceptance of federal money for high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando required a close review of new data. Now we know he didn't mean it. Wednesday, saying he didn't trust the projected ridership numbers and cost estimates-- a new study is not yet finished-- Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal grants. He is throwing away countless hours of bipartisan work applying for and winning the money. Florida overcame competition from just about every other metropolitan region in the country... Scott is wrong that the nation as a whole cannot afford a modern rail system similar to those in other industrialized nations. The $2.4 billion is less than the U.S. military is spending each week in Afghanistan."
Orlando Sentinel: Gov. Rick Scott's runaway train: "The Orlando-Tampa line would have created an estimated 23,000 jobs to build it and another 1,000 permanent jobs to operate and maintain it. Mr. Scott couldn't be bothered about that in rejecting $2.4 billion-- that's billion with a B-- specifically earmarked by the federal government for the project. And, in an Orwellian, head-shaking, did-I-really-hear-him-say-that? moment, the governor reminded listeners during his job-killing announcement that he 'was elected to get Floridians back to work.'
"This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to start transforming the way Floridians get around.
The train would have served stops at Orlando's airport, International Drive, Disney, Lakeland and Tampa. The airport, the Convention Center, hotels and restaurants along I-Drive, Disney and businesses in Lakeland and Tampa all wanted the train, rightly viewing it as another way to move customers to and from their doors.
"The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida-- the state's premier business groups-- also wanted the train, knowing it could lead to the building of another economically simulative high-speed line planned for Orlando to Miami.
"Yet Mr. Scott said that he was ditching the project to create an environment 'where the economy can flourish.' Huh?"
Bradenton Herald: Scott's reasons for rejecting rail project faulty: "Gov. Rick Scott abandoned his job-creation mantra in favor of a conservative ideology that will not spare the U.S. budget one iota, though he lambasted federal spending in rejecting $2.4 billion in stimulus money to construct a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando. Instead of Florida benefiting from the jobs and infrastructure those federal dollars would have yielded, California or other states will receive that investment."
WOW! I wonder what the Democratic-leaning newspapers are going to say! Is there a recall provision in Florida for crazy teabagger governors running amuck? By the end of the day the Republican controlled state Senate rebuked Scott-- with a letter sent by a veto-proof majority-- asking President Obama to ignore him and send the money anyway!
The letter was partly authored by one of Scott’s first senate backers, Republican Paula Dockery of Lakeland, who argued that the newly created Florida Rail Enterprise could act independently of Scott because the state’s share of the rail money-- $300 million-– was already approved last year by a previous governor, Charlie Crist.
...The number of senators, 26, is a significant number in that it sends Scott a subtle message: The Florida Senate could over-ride a future veto of rail money. Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos didn’t sign the letter, which is the first sign that the new governor has met the limits of his authority.
“I was never a big supporter of high-speed rail,” said Haridopolos, who nevertheless voted for the rail-legislation package in December 2009.
Haridopolos did give the green light for some of his top lawmakers to sign Dockery’s letter, including Senate Republican leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who pushed the rail legislation more than a year ago.
...“The bottom line is that he can’t reject this money: It was already approved by another Legislature and another governor,” said Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “It’s like trying to veto a bill after it becomes law. It’s too late.”
Simmons said it also made no sense to allow other states to get what he says is the state’s fair share of federal money.
“This is like holding a gun to our heads and telling the federal government: Don’t give us this money or we’ll blow our brains out,” Simmons said.