Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2011

THIS TRAIN DON'T STOP THERE ANYMORE.... The federal government had already allocated over $2 billion for a high-speed rail project linking Tampa and Orlando. With Florida's 12% unemployment rate, the project was poised to give the state a much needed boost -- creating tens of thousands of jobs and boosting economic development, with practically no investment needed from the state government.

Yesterday, for reasons that no one can explain, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced he'd refuse to accept the money and would instead allow the jobs to go to some other state.

What I found most interesting yesterday was the reaction from Republican officials in the Sunshine State.

Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican and the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he had tried but failed to talk Mr. Scott out of turning down the project.

Mr. Mica said the "federal government has done everything" it can, including agreeing to put up 90 percent of the rail link's financing. He added that it "defies logic" that Mr. Scott would cancel the rail line before the state had received bids on the project.

Mica's frustrations are really just the start. Republican State Senator Thad Altman called the governor's decision "tragic" and "bad for the people of Florida." Republican State Senator Paula Dockery said something similar. Republican State Senator Jack Latvala, chairman of Florida's Senate Transportation Committee, said Rick Scott "cut off our nose to spite our face."

Democrats, as one might imagine, were even more incensed. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio told reporters, "This is one of the worst decisions that I have ever seen in my 26 years of public life. This is a decision that is clearly based on ideology and not on the facts.... Why in the world would the governor take $2.3 billion worth of investment in our great state and hand it to another state? Why would any governor do that?"

Perhaps my favorite reaction came from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D), who began a process yesterday to see if the project could be built anyway, whether the governor approves or not. "We have the lawyers researching it," Nelson told the Palm Beach Post.

It's an understandable reaction. After all, why should Floridians suffer just because a ridiculous criminal happens to be their governor?

Assuming Nelson is unsuccessful, and that Scott's refusal effectively ends the prospect of investment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday the administration "will make sure that that money is used elsewhere to advance the infrastructure and innovation agenda that is essential for economic growth."

Indeed, some are already lining up for the resources. Immediately after Florida's governor turned down the money, New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Chuck Schumer (D) wrote the Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, explaining that the Empire State would gladly accept the investment Florida doesn't want. It's also likely California will benefit.

It creates an odd short-term future. We may well be looking at a situation in which states that need investment won't get it, because of the bizarre right-wing ideology of far-right Republican governors. "Blue" states, meanwhile, will in turn be the beneficiary of infrastructure improvements and economic development.

Historically, states competed for these kinds of resources. In the wake of the GOP's far-right shift, the competition may be limited to a smaller number of states -- the ones with Democratic governors.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (54)

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Comments

why should Floridians suffer just because a ridiculous criminal happens to be their governor?

Uhhh...because, they elected him?

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 17, 2011 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

What's the expression? You get the government you...elect. Or something.

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 17, 2011 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Let them suffer. They elected the SOB criminal.

I'm for letting all republicans who don't want to pay any taxes taxes not pay any. If they choose to do so they can have the money back they put in SS and Medicare in payments.

Under one condition.

They can't use anything in this country that "We The People" pay taxes for.

No roads. No Mail. No schools. No police. No Fire Departments. No medical care. Go ahead and run your business. Raise your kids and please don;t get sick. Your on your own.

I wish someone would create a bill that does jut that.

You don't want to pay your fair share. Fine.

Don't use our shit.

Posted by: langx on February 17, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

What I really like to see come next election for these governors who turned down funds are commercials featuring folks who got the jobs in the states who got the turned down funds. They could thank the governor for the jobs. They could then thank the people of Florida, Ohio, etc with a "Thanks Suckers!"

Posted by: cintibud on February 17, 2011 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

They want to live in the 1800's anyway. Let them have at it. No electricity , no gas, no cable.

Posted by: langx on February 17, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The blue states get the money?

Great!
About time!

Those idiots in the red states suck enough of our tax dollars down their endless red-necked gullets.

Screw 'em! Let people who believe in technology and science build new things.

Hi-speed trains for the blue states!
Hitching posts for the red states!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 17, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

I am assuming you meant Florida Senator Bill Nelson. It seemed odd that Nebraska's Ben Nelson would be interested in this issue at all.

[Thanks. Correction made. --Mods]

Posted by: brent on February 17, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

If Ben Nelson really said that he should mind his own damned business. Does anyone know what Senator Bill Nelson's reaction was?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 17, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Whoops, too slow.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 17, 2011 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Why shouldn't Floridians be the ones to suffer for voting for this ridiculous caricature of a leader? Obviously, many voted for his opponent but that's the way democracy works.

Posted by: Barbara on February 17, 2011 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

After all, why should Floridians suffer just because a ridiculous criminal happens to be their governor?

Others have given an adequate response, but a more accurate one is: Because a majority of those who bothered to go to the polls and vote on election day voted for him. Let this be a lesson to politically apathetic Floridians, as well as to those who insist on voting Republican in spite of the fact that the Republican party hasn't done anything worth supporting for 20 years or more.

As for "Blue" states reaping the harvest of Scott's idiocy, just wait. In a year or less, Scott and others like him will be bitching that Obama and congressional Democrats are favoring "Blue" states in an unfair way.

Posted by: David Bailey on February 17, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

The very idea that someone would turn down a two billion dollar gift...
Where do they find these guys? Arkham Asylum?

Posted by: Vokoban on February 17, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

P.S. what seems really striking is the extent to which red states, in particular, are more than willing to attract private investment by using their own public dollars. It seems insane to turn down money that is essentially free.

And having driven around Florida, let me say, I truly hesitate to vacation there anymore because the driving is so hard. We are always trying to find other ways to get around between destinations, and have taken the train a few times. I think Florida is one of the states could benefit the most from a real high speed rail project.

Posted by: Barbara on February 17, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

We may well be looking at a situation in which states that need investment won't get it, because of the bizarre right-wing ideology of far-right Republican governors. "Blue" states, meanwhile, will in turn be the beneficiary of infrastructure improvements and economic development.

And don't imagine for a moment that the AM radio talk machine won't point to that as proof that Obama is using his office to reward his cronies and punish the right, even though they themselves didn't just create the situation but angrily demand it.

Posted by: John on February 17, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Alabama could really use some high speed rail.
Huntsville to Birmingham to Montgomery to Mobile. And if Georgia wants to play nice, a little something from Birmingham to Atlanta.

Really, we'll take the money, we take a bunch of it anyway. We'll keep whining about taxes, but we WILL take the money.

Posted by: martin on February 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Stupid is as stupid does.

Old people don't go out much anyway. Probably would't have air conditioning on the train anyway. The Government doesn't do anything right anyway eh' teabaggers?

There truly are bozos on this bus...

Posted by: stevio on February 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

The strangest thing about Rick Scott is that while he has no trouble stealing from taxpayers for his own purposes, he apparently sees it as unreasonable to spend taxpayer's money on the taxpayers.


I can't wait until some impossibly huge financial scandal involving Mr. Scott's governorship comes to light. It seems like a near-certainty.

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid on February 17, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Ironic. A waitress in Wisconsin said she voted Republican to protect her freedoms from government threats and to create jobs. She is now protesting the union busting activities of the governor (famous freedom protector that he is). And in Florida we have a newly elected governor reneging on promises to create jobs..if he ever made any (surprised if he didn't).

Liars all.

Posted by: Mudge on February 17, 2011 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

In a year or less, Scott and others like him will be bitching that Obama and congressional Democrats are favoring "Blue" states in an unfair way.

Then make a counter proposal that these assholes endorse a Congressional bill that only allows as much Federal spending in a given state as that state pays. It won't hurt Florida as much, but Redneckistan will have to learn to stop being socialist sponges.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on February 17, 2011 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

California has 12% unemployment. We will take the money.

Posted by: Maitza on February 17, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

As a citizen of Wisconsin, I say welcome to my world, Floridians, the "best" may be yet to come.

Posted by: markg on February 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Last time some of the money went to Maine where, despite Tea Party governor (who is doing lots of bad things), accepted it. The revived train line from Portland to Boston is doing great and it would be wonderful to extend it beyond Brunswick, where current funding would take it.

Posted by: Mainer on February 17, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with all the jibes at Scott, but I do have a question about hi speed rail. Even in an increasingly urban environment, does rail transportation really work well in a country as large as the US except in open country for moving heavy loads? That is, I can see getting long haul trucks off the highways and onto the rails, and I can see rail in urban corridors. But I'm not certain that bus lines in the burbs and autos in rural areas won't continue to dominate.

Posted by: Ted Lehmann on February 17, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Just because federal funds are available, states should spend them?

Many of these high speed rail projects are pipe dreams, in areas that don't have enough population concentration to warrant them. Sure high speed rail makes sense among some corridors -- like highly trafficed corridors in the Northeast, Midwest, and west coast/Cali come to mind... But Tampa to Orlando??? Give me a break. There's no way the economics work on such a line.

Throwing good capital after bad projects is not the solution for sustainable improvement in unemployment.

Posted by: Concerned on February 17, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't followed these high-speed rail proposals -- are they economically sustainable? We love the DC metro, but keeping it operating requires public funding from the Feds and the surrounding jurisdictions. If a rail project required major, ongoing state funding, one might be able to make an argument for turning down construction funds. Just askin...

Posted by: beep52 on February 17, 2011 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

We have a bridge we need to build up here in AK!

Posted by: Mark on February 17, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Trains should be totally self-sustaining because, of course, roads fix themselves at no cost to anyone.

The amount of the subsidy is a reasonable question. I actually think that given the amount of tourism in Florida, in which most people end up renting cars anyway, high speed rail does make sense. Seriously, every time my husband proposes going to Florida again, all I can think about is being stuck for hours in traffic as we were trying to get from Orlando to St. Augustine. And it's even worse when you are going south, or east or west.

Posted by: Barbara on February 17, 2011 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

People like Concerned said the same thing about the federal highways. The conservatives were as wrong then as they are today about this high speed rail. They might be able to slow progress, but they will not stop it. Someday we will have high-speed rail, and conservatives and liberals alike will use it and enjoy it. The states that decide to be left behind will suffer the consequences.

Posted by: cb on February 17, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

@Concerned:
Orlando-Tampa is a very high-density area, and I-4 is a very busy highway. In fact, it's a parking lot at rush hour. High speed rail there would be very useful indeed.

Posted by: Werewolf on February 17, 2011 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Historically, states competed for these kinds of resources.

In fact, one of the greatest obstacles to building the original Transcontinental Railroad was the dispute over whether to use the southern route or the northern route -- a dispute that only was settles thanks to the Civil War when one of the parties dropped out.

As to 'high-density', the irony is, High Speed rail is already established in some of the most high-density environments on plant Earth (eg Europe and Japan).

Posted by: leo on February 17, 2011 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Floriduh has suffered under Repuglicans for decades...the level of DUMB here is stupifying...first you kill the ability to think critically then you bring in JESUS and all looks well in that future in the sky! Meanwhile the Scotts/Bushes/etc just get richer...

Posted by: Dancer on February 17, 2011 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Leo...what? Socialist Europe and Communist Japan! You Marxist, socialist, communist so-and-so!!!

/snark

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 17, 2011 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

First the Republicans attacked government
With a burst in the 80s under Ronald Reagan
And then with a 1000 paper cuts through suspicion
Until their buddies on SCOTUS
Put George the younger in office!

Wow, like children in a candy store
These Republicans spent on 2 wars
Gave away free goods to the top 2%
And drugs to our seniors with out paying
And the deficit grew and grew!

Now they've sobered up and seen the light
Like reformed drunks no one else is right
With the Middle Class they've picked a fight
Their piety falsely disparages the innocent
And as for reason and logic they've a lack of it.

At this point with the economy,
the Republicans are attacking it!
I mean it Mr. American Everyone
The Republicans have a keen sense of purpose
They wish to dispose of the man in the WH!

So, Walker, Kaisch, Scott and the lot
Are moving moving us backward on the cloak
With collective bargaining and the such
They've begun to wreck havoc us
And I know their misery has just been launched!

Hey Republicans - Why do you hate us? Oh, and where are the jobs? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 17, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

This article explains Scott's "reasons":

Scott also said Wednesday that he was worried that Florida would be on the hook for $3 billion or more if a business built the train and walked away because it was running a big deficit, an assertion based on a report critical of high-speed rail that was released in January by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank.
...
Scott's decision drew applause from tea-party groups who had worked for his election last year and cheered him last week when he introduced his $65.8 billion budget at a rally in Eustis. "We met with the Governor on HSR this past week and we are even more encouraged today that he has again stood strong against the politics as usual played by the Beltway crowd," said Sharon Calvert, co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party, in a statement.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on February 17, 2011 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

If the libertarians had their way, you still wouldn't be able to drive from california to north carolina. Rather, cities would be little walled fortresses, owned by corporations.

Posted by: cb on February 17, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Werewolf is right: the I-4 corridor is a mess. Thanks to recent (major) infrastructure improvements, Central Florida finally has the transit corridor it needed 30 years ago. Road construction in FL in general lags at least 10 years behind the need. Any alternate transit solution to make getting around will help.

Also, describing any transit corridor strictly in terms of its end points is irrational. Talking about the rail line as useless based on Orlando-to-Tampa traffic is rather like saying I-10 is useless because nobody would drive from Los Angles to Jacksonville. TAMPA to Orlando may not see full trains, but LAKELAND to Orlando - or Lakeland to Tampa - will definitely see a lot of riders. Most of the cities on the projected path have already begun studies to determine locations for their stations, and are discussing multiple locations - for multiple stops - within their boundaries in order to maximize ridership.

As I said earlier, Florida loves the idea of high-speed rail. It's Tallahassee - the capital - that has an allergy to it. And as the discussion is proving, even conservative legislators from the affected area recognize the potential - for both additional jobs and for improved mobility - that could be realised with this project. They may not be happy with "government spending," but they know what their constituents want, and what the region needs. Tallahassee apparently does not.

Gov. Scott, to be fair, never promised to help create jobs in Florida. His goal was to "focus on" jobs. It's increasingly apparent that his "focus" is on identifying jobs in Florida, and making sure they go elsewhere.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on February 17, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

There are many reasons Fark has a "Florida" tag, and this clown is example #1.

I mean, they elected a criminal to run their state, and then get all upset when he starts steering it down the shitter at warp 9.0.

The stupid is strong down there. Thankfully, thanks in part to their own stupidity, it'll be under water in 'bout 50 years (or whenever climate change starts to really crank up).

And is it just me, or does Gov. Scott look like some bit character in the Sopranos?

Posted by: Mark D on February 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen criticized Republicans when they accept stimulus funds for their districts, even though the opposed the stimulus. Now Rick Scott opposes federal funding of high speed rail projects and he criticizes him for turning the money down. What could Scott have done to please Benen in this situation?

Posted by: david1234 on February 17, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Brandeis spoke of the States as experimental laboratories, where different policies could be tried, and their implications seen, without hurting the whole union. I guess the silver lining behind the Red State lunacy is that it applies first and foremost to them--and the rejected money can go to the Blue States, which usually get less than their share. It's too bad about the non-millionaire citizens of the Red States, but perhaps through suffering and injustice they will learn the crucial lesson that in democracies, you better vote.

Posted by: Keith on February 17, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Floridians should suffer, and suffer terribly and painfully because they elected this criminal. Those democrats who stayed home should suffer even more. This country is not a dictatorship. Stop feeling sorry for the people. They did not learn through 8 yrs and 2 wars. Almost 50% of the population (and the majority of the white population) supports republicans. Unless this changes through severe pain and suffering nothing is going to change. I feel the country should be handed over to the right wing. The democrats come to power only long enough to stabalize the situation and then the country reverts back to its previous moronic state. People deserve whatever comes to them because they choose to vote against their own interests.

Posted by: rk21 on February 17, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

No sympathy for Floridians...after all, they elected the sumbitch.

Send the money to NYS and CT for upgrades to the Amtrak corridor. That stretch is the slowest part of the NE Corridor Line, which serves millions of people who do want options to the clogged skies and highways.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on February 17, 2011 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Scott would probably spend the money on something else, if Nelson were to find a way around him. I wouldn't trust him with it. As I read some where else, Perry used stimulus funds targeted for education in TX for something else and now will be making enormous cuts in public schools at all levels.

Posted by: CDW on February 17, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

All Right I've had enough of everyone saying we get what we deserve. First check the results:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_gubernatorial_election,_2010
No mandate in my book
Those who were not here have no idea of what 70 million of advertising plus untold millions from 501c's (thank you Supreme Court) and the US chamber of commerce can do to the uneducated. $100 million plus for a job that pays 200k a year. Where's the ROI on that investment Mr. Scott? The antidem ads trashing all Democrats and Obama started long before the Republican Primary started . It was relentless 30 to 40 ads an hour . The low info voters carried the election in the central and northern parts of the state. He lied in the campaign his ads lied and he effectively buried Alex Sink and all things Democratic with negative ads. We are all sick and now even the Republicans are going Holy fuck .
If you think we got what we deserve , just wait until you see it on a national level courtesy of Citizens United and the Supreme Court.

Posted by: John R on February 17, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK
It creates an odd short-term future. We may well be looking at a situation in which states that need investment won't get it, because of the bizarre right-wing ideology of far-right Republican governors. "Blue" states, meanwhile, will in turn be the beneficiary of infrastructure improvements and economic development.

This suggests that the "Blue" states that are getting (and not rejecting) high-speed rail (and other infrastructure and stimulus) funds don't need it, while the only states that actually need it are the Republican-dominated states that are rejecting the funds. This is pretty clearly not the case. As well as accepting and having a plan for using the money, states like California actually need it. Looking at the situations around the country, there are few -- if any -- states that don't need federal infrastructure investments and other stimulus (not all of them are good candidates for high-speed rail specifically, but even in that there are more places where that money would have a good payoff than there is money made available to meet the need.)

Every dollar that gets rejected is still going somewhere that needs it.

If Obama got the additional $50+ million in funding he's looking for, and every Red state decided not to apply for any of it, every dollar of that would still be going somewhere that needs it and can use it.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2011 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously, in the 11:54AM post, I managed to spell billion with an "m" instead of a "b".

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Blue" states, meanwhile, will in turn be the beneficiary of infrastructure improvements and economic development.

Good. The blue states are the ones that create the wealth that provides welfare for the red states anyway, let the wingnut morons live on their own.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I live in a red state and I can only imagine when the rails go up in the blue states, the folks around here will have that, baffled, "duh, derp... why do they always get the good stuff in their state?" attitude.

People generally do not pay attention to news and public affairs. They are dried leaves, twisting in the wind.

Posted by: cb on February 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

When rhetoric (Scott) meet reality (Mica, Altman, Latvala).

Posted by: ET on February 17, 2011 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

But Tampa to Orlando??? Give me a break. There's no way the economics work on such a line.

Throwing good capital after bad projects is not the solution for sustainable improvement in unemployment.
Posted by: Concerned

I'm wondering if you've ever driven I-10 between the two cities?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 17, 2011 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

i've said it before and i'll say it again. in a normal election year, rick scott wouldn't have gotten through the republican primary let alone won the general. but with unemployment at or above 12 percent and few signs of job growth, this was far from a normal election year.

and if you think florida is a red state, let me remind you that obama took florida in 2008 and gore took it in 2000, clinton in '96.

you can snicker at us all you want but look at wisconsin. no one is immune. given the right set of circumstances, a lunatic governor soon could be coming to your state.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 17, 2011 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Tampa Bay and Orlando urban areas have, between them, well over 5 million people. Miami-Ft Lauderdale-West Palm Beach have another 5 million. There is no lack of population, and our overall population densities are probably higher than for the northeastern urban areas, thanks to expensive land and the high cost of ensuring proper drainage and runoff retention.

Posted by: David Martin on February 17, 2011 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

oooops. i meant to say I4, not I10.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 17, 2011 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, Gov. Ruck Perry used stimulus funds to balance his budget.

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 17, 2011 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Like a lot of commenters, I don't get the Florida high speed rail anyway. Florida is all suburban freeway car based. Rail works in places where you get off the high speed rail and get onto the local rail transit, not renting a car. You can do that at the airport. So the obvious hsr corridor is Boston-NYC-Baltimore-DC. Really expensive to realise, but time to go for it. I took the train from DC to NYC a couple weeks ago and the tracks obviously totally sucked. What's up with that?

Could it be that the isolated hsr projects proposed were decided on a political, not logical basis, like defense contracts spread all over the place?

And if various states want to opt out of mass transit and Affordable Healthcare Act etc., fine, let them. Stop sending them education and medical care money and food stamp money and all of the socialism they object to so much.

Posted by: emjayay on February 17, 2011 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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