Friday, February 18, 2011

Have you listened to a darn word that Rick Scott has said?

...because if you had, Governor Scott's announcement that Florida would forgo the federal high speed rail funds would not have been so shocking.

Rick Scott promised during his entire campaign that he would do things differently, look at government with a new eye, run the state like a business, "Let's get to work," etc. He's got the courage and confidence that comes with complete financial independence: not only is Scott voluntarily only taking a penny salary, but we all know that he doesn't "need" this job.

Let's face it: there are much easier projects that Scott could have tackled than Florida's budget problems. I can only assume that he's truly, deeply motivated by this challenge and views righting Florida's economic ship as some sort of personal holy mission.

If Governor Scott starts wearing sunglasses all the time and
driving a classic Cadillac, we'll know for sure.
And let's look at how Scott has approached the entire budgetary process. From the beginning, his transition team has allowed no "sacred cows," attacking the budget with not a scalpel, but a chainsaw and a blowtorch. Entire agencies and departments have been slated for demolition. He released his budget, not in Tallahassee, but in sleepy little Eustis, and caused an amusing level of panic as people realized their pet projects had been killed. So I find it hysterical that anyone pretends to be shocked that Scott is rejecting the high speed rail money.

Personally, I've honestly had mixed feelings about the rail issue. Florida has beautiful weather and no state income tax; as the economy recovers, our growth challenges will return. Building a hundred lanes on I-4 is not the answer and at some point I hope we can have an honest discussion about mass transit and building for density in our metropolitan cores so we can preserve as much of our green spaces as possible.

I've also been annoyed at what seems to me to be intellectual dishonesty from some of the rail opponents, especially the argument that a rail project will "lose money." Well, duh. Government infrastructure is not meant to be profitable. Does the interstate highway system turn a profit? How about your local elementary school? Of course not. The real question for a government-funded project is not whether it will be profitable, but whether the project is a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer funds.

Clearly, here, Governor Scott has looked at the facts and figures for the high speed rail proposal and decided that Florida taxpayers' funds are better spent elsewhere right now. The benefits of improved transportation infrastructure and construction jobs are, in the Governor's view, not justified by the extremely large price tag for this project. Let's also keep in mind that there's no such thing as "free money" - the promised federal funds are our taxpayer funds too, and federal money always comes with a lot of strings attached.

Well, Scott's announcement was predictably met with a lot of screeching and wailing and rending of garments. A group of Florida State Senators, led by one of the biggest hypocrites on the rail issue ever, Paula Dockery (aka, "Little Miss I-don't-like-rail-projects-unless-my-husband-gets-a-share-of-the-profits!"), reacted by throwing a public temper tantrum. They sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, asking him to circumvent Governor Scott and send the high speed rail funds to a state commission.

Apryl Marie Fogel, the Florida state director for Americans for Prosperity, issued the following statement and action alert:
Members of Florida's Congressional Delegation and the Florida Legislature are plotting to circumvent Governor Scott's decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a high speed rail from Orlando to Tampa.  Unlikely bedfellows were made today when a group of 26 State Senators, including ten democrats and led by high speed rail supporter Paula Dockery, sent a letter to Obama’s Transportation Secretary asking him to circumvent Gov. Scott and send the dollars directly to a state commission created in 2009. They noted that politics should have no place in the future of Florida’s transportation, but they are doing exactly that with this political power play to quiet your voice and that of your elected Governor.
Governor Scott's decision to reject the federal stimulus dollars is backed by sound economic policy and represents the voice of fiscal conservatives - he doesn't think it is in the best interest of the state to commit to a project we can't afford down the road.  The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed a plan for Florida that will cost an estimated $11 billion to build, and it is projected that along with SunRail and Tri-Rail it will cost $100 million per year to operate once completed.  With unknown ridership numbers and a budget shortfall of $3.5 billion and growing, the state of Florida simply can't afford Obama and Dockery's High Speed Rail plan.
For Prosperity,
Apryl Marie Fogel
State Director
Americans for Prosperity - Florida
UPDATE: Here's a link to some additional commentary by Javier Manjarres at The Shark Tank:

The Shark Tank | Governor Scott Kills High-Speed Rail, Takes Heat From Senate Republicans
It’s not often that common sense and fiscal discipline wins the day at any level of government, but Governor Rick Scott deserves big kudos from you (and your kids if you have them) for doing the right thing for Florida and its long-term fiscal health, as he effectively killed the so-called High-Speed Rail (HSR) project which was planned to connect Tampa to Orlando.  Governor Scott, like most other clear thinking people who understand the value of a dollar and what a cost/benefit analysis is, looked over the horizon and saw that Florida would have been saddled with an enormous long term fiscal loser in exchange for what?- maybe 20,000 jobs over the next five years, many of them temporary, that would be paid for with more borrowed federal money.  Consider it yet another “stimulus” project that wouldn’t stimulate anything but our debt and the growth of government.
It’s a pretty good bet that either a Governor McCollum or a Governor Sink would have approved the HSR project regardless of its bleak long term fiscal projections, as that’s the very short-term thinking we’ve come to expect from politicians of all stripes.  But as is typically the case in government, no good deed goes unpunished, and Scott is getting blowback from every direction, including a somewhat unexpected source, as a veto-proof group of State Senators have issued a public rebuke of Scott’s decision to kill HSR.
It’s almost embarrassing to read the letter this group of 26 State Senators sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood practically begging him not to give these rejected federal monies to another state as if it were somehow their birthright.  Their letter deadpans that "Politics should have no place in the future of Florida’s transportation, as evidenced by this letter of bipartisan support."

Come again, Senators?  Governor Scott’s decision to kill HSR is based on his very sober cost/benefit analysis of the project.  You can agree or disagree with Governor Scott’s decision, but your support of HSR is as every bit “political” as his decision was to kill the project.


  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember getting a solicitation letter from Sen. Dockery early in the gubernatorial campaign, touting her opposition to high-speed rail and how she was the lone wolf in fighting this in the Senate. It would have been at least 2 years ago because I remember thinking that I might look deeper into Sen. Dockery's campaign. Talk about hypocritical. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong. I no longer have the letter I received when she threw her hat in the ring for govrtmor.

  2. Dockery was against SunRail, a *very* vocal opponent, and she was one of the leaders of the group that got it blocked in the Legislature at one point.

    From what I've been told, her husband's business interests profit from the high speed rail project but not SunRail. If I remember correctly, it has to do with where he owns parcels of property.

    Dockery has not, to my knowledge, ever openly opposed high speed rail, but attempted to blackmail the legislature over a SunRail vote. I am of the opinion that reasonable people can disagree on the merits of these projects, but Dockery's rationale for blocking SunRail was completely transparent.

    So yeah, I'm going to call Dockery a hypocrite. That's my opinion. Hooray for the First Amendment!

  3. Great Post! I really enjoy going to blog...

    Common Cents

  4. Sheesh! What part of "No Rail" can these people not get? For the proponents of rail (read the comments at money is no object. I swear when they talk you can hear Billy Idol in the background singing "More, more, more."

    Great post. We've got to keep pounding away at them.


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