Almost immediately upon hearing news Thursday that the Obama administration is diverting money previously allotted to a high-speed rail project in Wisconsin to other states, officials in Madison and Wisconsin began releasing their reactions. Governor-elect Scott Walker, whose plans to halt construction of the high-speed line between Milwaukee and Madison caused Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to yank a commitment of $810 million from Wisconsin, was predictably the target.
Google searches revealed celebratory moods in states which will now receive portions of the nearly $1.2 billion combined that Wisconsin and Ohio are giving up. "California gets another $624 million for high-speed trains" read the San Jose Mercury News. Meanwhile, closer to home, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel blogger Patrick McIlheran spun the loss of funds as somehow outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle's fault, writing "good riddance."
Governor-elect Scott Walker was short and, particularly in his final sentence, to the point:
As I said along the campaign trail, we didn't need and couldn't afford the Madison to Milwaukee rail line. While I would have preferred to have the $810 million reallocated to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, I am glad that the transportation fund will not be on the hook for a minimum of $7.5 million of operating subsidies every year.
Wisconsin taxpayers were victorious today in defeating this project. The last election showed that Wisconsinites oppose runaway government spending.
The Madison to Milwaukee train line is dead.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin:
This is a terribly sad day for Wisconsin. By pledging to stop the high speed rail project in our state, Governor-elect Walker is denying jobs to Wisconsinites when they are desperately needed and sending the message that Wisconsin is not open to innovation, new business, and the economic development we need to grow and thrive in the 21st Century. We are witnessing the ugly triumph of politics over progress and the people of Wisconsin will suffer the consequences for decades to come.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:
This is a black day for Wisconsin's economy.
The 5,000 or so construction workers who could have been employed over the course of the next few months building high speed rail have Scott Walker to thank for their continued unemployment.
A governor-elect who claims to be making jobs his top priority has killed thousands of good-paying jobs before even taking office. And it won't stop here. Walker has laid out nothing less than an all out attack on the modern economy.
With his high speed rail decision, Walker has sent a national and even international message that Wisconsin is closed to new ideas and not nearly open to business. Next he'll go after stem cell research, possibly chasing those jobs to California. And we can only imagine what else he'll do to turn back the clock on progress.
Scott Walker, even before taking office, has done irreparable damage to Wisconsin.s economy.
State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison):
The people of Wisconsin lose today as California, Washington State and Florida will reap the benefits of Governor-elect Scott Walker's poor decision to turn away $810 million to build high speed rail in Wisconsin. It is unfortunate that Governor-elect Walker and the Republicans found it more important to try to score political points than to create 5,000 jobs and to invest in Wisconsin's future transit infrastructure.
Republicans told us the cornerstone of their agenda was job creation. Now we know job creation has little to do with their real agenda. My guess is it will only be a matter of weeks before we see the full bait and switch from a jobs agenda to a right-wing social agenda.
It is going to be hard to take Republicans seriously when they talk about needing to cut health care, education and police and fire protection when they so easily gave away $810 million.
State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), the incoming Assembly Minority Leader:
"This is not only a loss of jobs and growth for our state, it is at a huge financial cost to our state," said incoming Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca. "I hope Gov.-elect Walker now recognizes this money will never go for roads, bridges or deficit reduction.
"In addition, his action will create a hole in our transportation budget. I call on the incoming governor to reach out to Secretary LaHood immediately and ask him to hold-off on giving away Wisconsin's money."
Barca, noting that Wisconsin could have been part of larger regional network linking Chicago to Minneapolis, added, "Not only are we losing thousands of jobs and the great economic-growth potential, this costs Wisconsin taxpayers millions. We have to send back the money, repay money already invested and, to add insult to injury, we pay our share of federal taxes and it will now be going to other states."
According to a Nov. 22 Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo analyzing the Milwaukee to Madison portion of the high speed rail costs, in addition to returning the $810 million grant, the transportation fund will be negatively impacted.
In addition, $14.45 million already expended will not be reimbursed and there are a number of other hits on the transportation fund for maintenance facilities, ADA requirements and line improvements to accommodate freight rail, which the Fiscal Bureau estimates could total up to $85 million. The LFB memo also lays out job estimates of 13,594 direct and induced jobs over six years.
Added Barca: "It's hard to imagine any chief executive would put the transportation fund at risk, to say nothing of the opportunity for jobs, growth and investment. If Gov.-elect Walker does not reconsider and act immediately, he is slamming this door on business in Wisconsin."
Gov. Jim Doyle
Secretary LaHood today advised me that because of Governor-elect Walker's adamant opposition to the rail project, the $810 million awarded to Wisconsin will now be allocated to other states.
This is a tragic moment for the State of Wisconsin. Our team worked hard to win a national competition to make us a leader in high speed passenger rail. We were positioned to be not only a center of the line, but to be a manufacturing center as well. Now we are moving from being the leader, to the back of the line.
Eight hundred and ten million dollars that would have gone to create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin will now create jobs in other states. Bogus arguments that this money can be used for roads have been proven false. As Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota continue to work on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, the connection of Chicago to Minneapolis will avoid Wisconsin. Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire and other Wisconsin communities will lose the benefit of those connections. Together with many others I have worked hard to move Wisconsin into the future. I obviously am deeply saddened to see us take a major step backward.
State Rep.-elect Brett Hulsey (D-Madison):
I'm saddened to learn that Governor-elect Walker appears to have succeeded in destroying restoration of train service to Madison. For someone who has promised to create 250,000 jobs in our state, refusing federal funding that would create thousands of jobs over the next several years is a giant leap in the wrong direction. He's raised the bar on himself here; before even taking office, he has killed more than 5,000 jobs. He takes office as a job destroyer, not a job creator.
It might not be too late, however. Now that the federal government has called Governor-elect Walker's bluff, it's time for him to act. He should tell the Secretary of Transportation that he'll support the construction of the Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities rail line. Governor-elect Walker, don't let this money and these jobs leave our state. Do the right thing for our future.
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds
WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.
"High-speed rail will modernize America's valuable transportation network, while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America's high-speed rail network to life."
The Recovery Act included $8 billion to launch a national high-speed rail program that will modernize America's transportation network, spur economic development domestically and keep the U.S. competitive with other leading nations. High-speed rail grants announced under the Recovery Act can be used only for high-speed rail projects and not for other transportation projects.
Last year, the Obama Administration received a commitment from 30 domestic and foreign rail manufacturers to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if selected for contracts building America's high-speed rail network. These rail manufacturers and suppliers committed to not only locate in the U.S., but to ensure high-speed rail projects are built by American workers with American-made supplies. To deliver maximum economic benefits to American taxpayers, the Administration's high-speed rail program also includes a 100 percent 'Buy American' requirement.
Under the Recovery Act, the Federal Railroad Administration originally announced $810 million for Wisconsin's Milwaukee-Madison corridor and $400 million for Ohio's Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland "3C" route. The Federal Railroad Administration will redirect $810 million from Wisconsin and $385 million from Ohio, and will work with these states to determine whether they have already spent money under their contracts that should be reimbursed.
The $1.195 billion originally designated for those high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio will now be used to support projects in the following states:
California: up to $624 million
Florida: up to $342.3 million
Washington State: up to $161.5 million
Illinois: up to $42.3 million
New York: up to $7.3 million
Maine: up to $3.3 million
Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
Vermont: up to $2.7 million
Missouri up to $2.2 million
Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
Oregon: up to $1.6 million
North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
Iowa: up to $309,080
Indiana: up to $364,980