Florida’s Scott joins the anti-rail crusade

FLORIDA’S SCOTT JOINS THE ANTI-RAIL CRUSADE…. Historically, leaders in both parties have championed infrastructure and transportation investments. That’s obviously no longer the case.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced Wednesday that he is sending back $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money reserved for building a high-speed rail network.

“Rather than investing in a high-risk rail project, we should be focusing on improving our ports, rail and highway infrastructure,” Scott announced, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Scott’s decision comes on the heels of identical moves from Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), both of whom recently rejected billions in federal funding for high-speed rail.

But Scott’s move in Florida is especially ridiculous.

The plan has been to create a $2.6 billion high-speed rail project linking Orlando and Tampa, and in time, Orlando and Miami. Nearly every penny would be funded by the federal government — and the remaining costs would be covered by private companies vying for contracts to run the system.

The benefits to Florida’s struggling economy were poised to be tremendous. Independent estimates found that the rail project would create 24,000 jobs, boost economic development, improve congestion on Florida’s overburdened highways, and even help the state’s environment. All Rick Scott had to do was accept the check from Washington.

Today, the criminal governor refused.

The Orlando Sentinel‘s editorial board recently tried to come up with a coherent explanation for Scott’s position, but the best it could do is (a) the governor’s irrational partisanship places Obama-hatred above Florida’s needs; and/or (b) he hopes to impress the GOP’s right-wing base, even if it costs Florida 24,000 jobs.

In the larger context, it’s worth emphasizing that America’s global competitors are investing in innovative, modern methods of transportation. We could do that here and reap the rewards — job creation, economic development, cleaner air, less congested roads, etc. — but instead we have governors like Rick Scott, John Kasich, and Scott Walker.

Postscript: In case you’re wondering, when far-right governors turn down rail funds, federal officials re-direct the money to other projects in less-ridiculous states.