Republican Governors Decline Federal Funds for High-Speed Rail

Jenny Erikson

trainPresident Obama sets aside large chunks of change in his 2012 budget for research and development in high-speed railroads. Because throwing billions of dollars at a choo-choo train is exactly what it’s going to take to fix the economy and lower those unemployment numbers.

The recently released 2012 budget proposal allocates $53 billion over the next six years for high-speed rail projects across the country. So far, three Republican governors have said ‘no thanks’ to federal funds to implement the trains in their states.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott joined his colleagues in Ohio and Wisconsin in rejecting more than $2 billion from the federal government for the rail project. Scott cited historically optimistic revenue projections and capital cost overruns in his decision. He stated:

The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits … higher taxes and more government spending is a recipe for disaster. Government has become addicted to spending beyond its means and we cannot continue this flawed policy … my background is in business, not politics. But you don't have to be an economics expert to understand that if you spend more money than you take in, your business will fail.

Bravo to Governor Scott for turning down funds for a shiny new toy in his state. Thank goodness he has the good sense to recognize that the federal government’s place is not in research and development within the states. High-speed trains are pretty cool (those suckers go over 200 mph), but that’s irrelevant if it’s not profitable. With $14 trillion in national debt, now is not the time to be spending money on high-speed rail.

If high-speed rail is really a valuable, profitable investment in Florida, someone will privately invest in it. Because that person or persons will own it, they will make it as profitable as possible … which means more tax revenue for the state. Wherever there is money to be made, some American will find it, and then reinvest it back into the community. 

The government doesn’t need to tinker in technology, because Americans are better at it. We are smart, resourceful, entrepreneurial, and innovative. The government is slow, awkward, and has no incentive to turn a profit. Let’s stop pretending that it’s a good idea for Uncle Sam to invest in new trains rather than pay down our impossibly high debt.

Image via Jon Curnow/Flickr

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