Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a tea party favorite in the last election, has rejected $2.4B in federal funds to help build a high-speed rail line for the state, between Orlando and Tampa.The AP reports that Obama had given the state about $342.3 million more for the line, funding that represented a full commitment by the government to fund the full $2.4 billion project.
According to the AP:
That $342.3 million was part of about $1.2 billion intended to fund high-speed rail projects in Ohio and Wisconsin but which had been rejected by governors there. LaHood redirected the funds to “other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors” in the United States.
Scott held a press conference Wednesday to explain his decision, Aaron Deslatte and Dan Tracy of the Orlando Sentinel report. “My concern with this,” he said, “is if you look at ridership studies, I don’t see any way anyone is going to get a return. And so I’m very concerned about the Florida taxpayers.”
The Governor also wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, indicating that “rather than investing in a high-risk rail project, we should be focusing on improving our ports, rail and highway infrastructure.” Scott also said there was some concern that “if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.”
“Let us never forget,” Scott continued in the letter. “Whether it is Washington or Tallahassee, government has no resources of its own. Government can only give to us what it has previously taken from us.”
The Sentinel reports that this means the funding will go to California or other states who do want a high-speed rail system. LaHood confirmed this in a statement responding to Scott’s decision, saying he was disappointed, but “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.”