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Despite Potential for 14,000 Jobs, Scott Rejects $2.4 Billion in High-Speed Rail Money

| February 16, 2011

Get used to it.

The money was already in Florida’s pocket. But in an eight-minute announcement rich in partisan broadsides and explicit attacks on the Obama administration, Gov. Rick Scott this morning rejected the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money that Florida won last year for the construction of a high-speed rail link between Orlando, Lakeland and Tampa.

The project was to have created between 12,000 and 14,000 jobs in central Florida. Some 1 million Floridians–close to 12 percent of the state’s labor force–are unemployed.

Scott also put in question the future of SunRail, the commuter rail line that was to tie into the high-speed rail project, and link DeBary in Volusia County to Orlando in a 61-mile, 12-station stretch. When a reporter asked Scott if that project was still going ahead, Scott curtly replied: “Sunrail is something I’m still reviewing.” He did not go into details, but the answer suggests that even that project, which the Florida Legislature approved in a special session after several years of tortuous debates and negotiations, is in jeopardy.

Scott didn’t address the Jacksonville-St. Augustine-Miami passenger rail link that Flagler County officials, in Bunnell especially, have seized on as a potential economic boon. But Scott’s by rejecting federal aid outright, and putting in question state backing for SunRail, it is extremely unlikely that Scott would support continuing the passenger-rail project on the old Florida East Coast rail line (on which passenger service ended in 1968).

“This project will be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the costs far outweigh the benefits,” Scott said of the high-speed rail link. Without specifying how, the governor said cost overruns would put Florida taxpayers “on the hook for $3 billion,” while ridership “would likely result in ongoing subsidies” by the state–which is true, but no rail system in the United States or Europe operates without subsidies, nor does any highway system, which is entirely subsidized by taxpayers (as opposed to rail systems, which are only partly subsidized). The basis of Scott’s opposition is a flawed study by the Reason Foundation, prepared for his campaign, that projected possible overruns in the future. Those findings were based on two Europeans’ analysis focusing particularly on three European megaprojects in England, Denmark and Sweden, although those projects, the labor laws, time frames, tax subsidies, northern-latitude weather extremes and other factors, have little to nothing in common with high-speed rail in Florida.

Calling high-speed rail a “spending boondoggle” and going as far as questioning the intelligence of the project, Scott’s hastily called news conference this morning was focused less on economics than ideology. In an unusually partisan tone even for a governor of a party opposite the president’s, Scott cited Obama by name several times to lace his objections not only to high-speed rail, but to the tenor of federal policy in general. He attacked the president’s budget, unveiled this week, for its deficits. “President Obama’s high-speed rail program is not the answer to Florida’s high unemployment. We must make investments where we get a return for shareholders, Florida’s taxpayers.” He said the state should focus on improving its seaports and highways.

In a joint appearance with then-Gov. Charlie Crist in Tampa last year, Obama promoted $8 billion in rail grants to several states as a means of producing tens of thousands of jobs in what was to be the nation’s largest infrastructure investment since the Eisenhower administration’s embrace of the interstate system in the 1950s. Just last week, the administration announced a six-year, $53 billion plan –including $8 billion for next year–to boost high-speed rail.

University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith said at the time of the Obama-Crist announcement that the Orlando-Tampa corridor “is poised to become the breadbasket for the state and this only catalyzes and reinforces that.”

All but a fraction of the Tampa-Orlando link was to be paid for with federal dollars already allocated to Florida. Critics of the plan, including Scott, had cited Florida’s portion of around $200 million as a reason to oppose the plan. But Obama’s additional spending in the next six years was likely to defray even those additional costs. Florida’s share of stimulus dollars for the rail project was less than $2 billion originally. It rose considerably when Wisconsin rejected its portion of high-speed money. New York, on the other hand, said it would cash in on any state that rejects its portion.

Shortly after Scott’s news conference, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama was prepared to redirect the money to other willing investors in high-speed rail.

“We think that is an unfortunate decision,” Carney said of Scott. “This goes right to the essence of what we have been talking about here. There has been a lot of bipartisan support for the need to create the kind of modern infrastructure in this country that will enable us to compete. High speed rail is very much a part of that and we will make sure that that money is used elsewhere to advance the infrastructure and innovation agenda that is essential for economic growth.

“We believe that the money that is allocated for high-speed rail as part of the Recovery Act is essential to the infrastructure agenda that this president has,” Carney said later. “Again, it is part of the president’s priority and it is essential to us to build an infrastructure that allows us to compete in the 21st Century.”

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25 Responses for “Despite Potential for 14,000 Jobs, Scott Rejects $2.4 Billion in High-Speed Rail Money”

  1. Tina Jeffe says:

    Our loss, New York’s gain. This guy doesn’t care whether Floridians work or not.

  2. A parent says:

    Gov. Skeletor is the scariest creature I’ve ever seen.

  3. val jaffee says:

    I wonder how Florida’s tourism industry feels about this?
    Aside from creating the inital 14,000 jobs, one would think that this would boost tourism which will in turn benefit local buisness and the overall local economy in general.

    Where does the chamber of commerce stand on this? I though Scott was probusiness. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  4. Jack Jeffe says:

    This is a real loss for Florida. However, when you elect a governor like Scott what do you expect!? The people spoke when they elected a governor that was backed by the Tea Party! Therefore the people deserve what they get!

  5. palm coaster says:

    Scott is pro “his business” in the hospitals and medical insurance service field. Let Floridians enjoy now the recess that the state will endure with this outsider at the helm, that unfortunatly a small marging majority fatefully elected. Too late for the Chamber to get in trouble commenting on the flaws of the one they backed. Don’t turn yourselves off yet, because he has more in the burner and Wisconsin style. How could he care for the unemployed in Florida when he is rich now thanks to what his Columbia Health Care business scammed thru Medicare fraud? He is one more on the conservative crowd that demands medicare cuts to the recipients. Wait till you see his jobs cuts plans.

  6. Christie2012 says:

    You folks kill me. Amtrak losses money every year and the taxpayer keeps it afloat every year. Now you want the taxpayers of Florida to pay for two trains. Thank god we have a Governor who sees the big picture and not just the here and now.

  7. Butch says:

    You kill me. Every year we spend more and more money to keep up with ever increasing road congestion. Now you want the taxpayers to build and widen more roads instead of investing in a more efficient alternative. Thank god we have others that recognize that there are other modes of transportation.

    Reality is that 99% of all transportation systems built in the U.S. are funded from taxpayers. We can continue to invest in road building as we enter into $5-$6 gallon gas, or we can start investing in a more efficient alternative before it bankrupts our middle class.

  8. palm coaster says:

    Every time that someone refers to the big pictured makes me sick. The big picture and distorted is what got us in Iraq..remember? The big picture is what PC government, the Flagler Chamber got us in with our Sheraton/Harborside Palm Coast resort when with flashing colors and deceiving T-shirts sold us the distorted story telling of Centex that made us loose 300 jobs. The big picture is what Wall Street, Fed Reserve and Banks sold us all, with the mortgage packages fraud. Kudos for Butch that is bright and informed to tell it like it is. The reason of our current financial distress and joblessness are not the fault of our workers or their unions or the funding of our infrastructure and services we pay for, but instead the pillage and greed imposed to us all by tax revenues hungry corporations and their GOP buddies.

  9. JR says:

    I guess Scott should have accepted the money because it was “Federal money,” and that means it comes from nowhere — someone has to pay for it. He made a a realistic decision based on a realistic look at how high-speed rail would function here. The practicality of mass-transit in the southern and western regions of the country is very — very — low. Especially in Florida, where high-speed rail from Tampa to Miami would still be slower than carpooling. Given the geography, from Tampa to Orlando to Miami — with a few major stops, think Ft. Lauderdale — at 2 minutes per station, it would still take take 4 hours and 20 minutes between Tampa and Miami traveling at speeds above 120 mph. Then pay for a a taxi to get around at you destination.

  10. ImMoblie says:

    It wasn’t planned as a commuter rail. It was planned for the tourist to get to the theme parks. So let them (parks) pay for it!

  11. PC MAN says:

    It’s decisions like this that will keep Floriduh the backward hillbilly mess it can’t seem to break free from. It’s now becoming general knowledge that we are soon to be in “peak oil” and oil prices will soon be double or triple within twenty years. So just around the time mass transportation will become a necessity we won’t have one rail line anywhere. The problem is teabaggers = old who will not be here twenty years from now much less five years could care less about anything pass their time. For obvious reason they will never be known as the “Greatest Generation”.

  12. NortonSmitty says:

    And so it goes….

  13. val jaffee says:

    ‘Then pay for a a taxi to get around at you destination’. No need for a taxi since many hotels provide free shuttle to many places if guests do not want to use the public transportation.

    I went to Tampa, DC and Atlanta during the course of last year. It was public transit, free shuttle service, and walking most of the time except for the couple of occasions that we agreed to a taxi because there were others around agreeable to splitting the fare.

    You see a lot more when you’re not behind the wheel and focused on getting to your destination. Take time to enjoy the scenery and people watch. You’d be amazed at what you see!

  14. Monica Campana says:

    Information literacy requires that one compare at least two sources of information and that your sources be authoritative, accurate and unbiased. This is what happens when you make big decisions based on slanted information from one source. This is not surprising given what this governor has said about the value of libraries. Wishing Mica and Nelson success in overturning this short-sighted decision.

  15. palm coaster says:

    If the same short sited view of these tea parties regarding federal grants misused to fund our needed Florida railway, would have influenced the Eisenhower era then today we will not have the interstate highways that we all still enjoy…. while the gas gouging at the pump allows us. Tea parties talk the big political anti liberal talk of the wealthy, while promoting the destruction of our middle society. They stop our railway construction and do nothing to stop the oil lords from gouging us at the pump while their oil companies come up with the biggest profits ever. If we can’t afford the gas, then we need transportation. If we do not have the jobs then we need to tax imports and Obama should have started telling that to Steve Jobs and company on their meeting yesterday, as Apple and most manufacture their gadgets sold here in China, India and the like. I did not buy or care for an Iphone or Ipad until they will bring manufacture back home, what about you all? If our states budgets are broke they need to get revenue by properly raising the taxes of corporations and the wealthy to the levels that middle society pay…39% at least and not target our workers and unions further squeezing heir salaries, pensions and benefits. When are we all going to stop these oligarchs? Learn from Wisconsin and their 14 representatives making history.

  16. ImMoblie says:

    Here’s a thought: There are 3 major roads into and out of Florida. Put up tolls and charge admission and departure fees. This will created some jobs and have (mostly) tourist pay for the roads they are using! Are they flying in? Of course they are! Do like Canada does and charge a cash only airport departure fee that’s equal to the two tolls!

  17. DP says:

    I can’t believe that some of you actually voted for, or like this idiot. To reject something like the federal money for the voter approved high speed rail is “NUTS”. So much for his plan of 700,000.00 jobs in 7 yr’s. Also leave my retirement along, just because you stole and lied from the government to make you billions, doesn’t mean you can take away something that I work hard and put my life on the line daily for, by “CHOICE” of mine, and that has been shown to be solvent for years to fill the budget. I am a “PROUD” but food stamp qualifying FIREFIGHTER who will never be able to retire and afford to put his kids through college, as I haven’t had a raise in over “8” years and suffered thru increased insurance costs less benefits, and low wages, while continuing to struggle to feed and clothe my family.

    Rick Scott will bankrupt Florida and once again steal from the government and the tax payers as he has and did in the past.


    Here’s an idea..let’s cut out all the perks Congress has voted for themselves that we pay for ie private insurance, transportation to and from DC, pay raises, secret service protection, parties, their salaries for the rest of their lives and see how much we save there first, then we’ll look at illegals, and LAST we’ll look at firefighters, policeman and teachers. How’s that for a plan?

  18. palm coaster says:

    Today’s unemployment office in Daytona, had its mandatory “workshop room” full of middle class unemployed even with bachelors and masters degrees…not lazy/laid back but hurting because there are NO JOBS, why? Because since 2001 over 47,000 factories took off to settle overseas to manufacture what we buy here, so they make it with slaves wages and unmonitored pollution. That was done with the total deregulation approved by the Bush era, geared to satisfy the unlimited corporate greed. Just yesterday I learned that a young friend of mine was laid off in NJ because his medical supply manufacturing company there, was bought out by Blackstone Group and Godlman Sachs and shut down the plant in USA to reopen it in India.
    They had the nerve to have 150 young female CSR ladies travel to India, to train the new to be Indus CSR and then to be laid off as soon as where back in the US. My friend a young exceptional Manager became curious and took a trip to India to see what the country that was taking his job looked like and he was appalled by the poverty and pollution everywhere he saw there. At the end he was terminated too. This so called private investment management companies like Blackstone, Cerberus and hundreds others like those and also called hedge funds, are systematically destroying our middle society just to privatize it all aiming to, as the last goal to privatize our very government. Why? because still the Americans tax revenue from our hard earned dollars contributions is yet one of the greatest wealth’s in the world and absolutely all greedy corporations, rich and also our so called “allies” are aiming to get it.
    One more detail my laid off friend told me, was that when the first manufactured medical supplies started arriving from India into our customs lots of faulty and full of flaws items were discovered within each imported shipment and we are talking “medical supplies” . This just describes the enormity of our current labor tragedy allowed to take place by our elected politicians. We need to tax imports and properly tax corporations and the wealthy at the same rate we get taxed and all our budget deficits will disappear overnight! Do not blame and punish our workers and unions for what is not their fault!
    Recall Scott and recall Walker and any other governor with the same oligarch agenda.

  19. DLF says:

    Great call by our new governor, who will pick up the tab for this piece of crap when the feds pull out. The answer is you and I will because it will be like Am Track, a looser. . Who came up with the 14,000 jobs, that was not the number quoted before Scott took office. All of you who think this was a great deal are not in most cases ever going to use it.

  20. Christie2012 says:

    This country is on the fast track to become the next Greece. The state and federal government are running huge deficits, and yet most people are only worried about where to next handout will come or how dare they make me pay for my own benefits.
    Here is a small example of how bad things are in this country. Average Milwaukee school teacher:The average Milwaukee Public School teacher will be receiving $100,005 in compensation this year – $56,500 of that is in salary, and a whopping $43,505 is in benefits(MacIver News Service).
    This Sun Rail project is another thank you for your support union payoff. Obama signed Executive Order 13502, which promotes the use of project labor agreements on federal projects of over $25 million. Project labor agreements can require the use of union labor or the payment of union wages and dues collection.
    As in Greece, Unions and entitlements are killing this country. Great story in the The Washington Times from a year ago about the strikes in Greece. The government was broke and Unions wanted more. SOUND FAMILIAR

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Florida is a preview of America’s banana republic future, with Scott doing the peeling and rest of us invited to slip.

  21. Dorothea says:

    To Christie 2012: NOT.

    The Wisconsin public employees are not protesting about salaries and benefits, they are protesting against the governor and the legislators trying to jam through a law forbidding employees to have unions at all and not getting a chance for collective bargaining. This is not a battle over pay raises and benefits. It is an attempt by the Republican Party to break the backs of the unions all over the United States, including New Jersey (Christie). Thanks to corrupt Supreme Court Justices like Clarence Thomas, corporations are anonymously pouring millions of dollars to Republican coffers. Now the Repubs want to elminate unions who contribute to and provide workers for Democratic candidates. Just for the record, Wisconsin has no budget deficit, only those deficits created by its governor.

    As for the hiring of union employees by government projects. Beats hiring illegal aliens as contractors were doing at the new VA hospital here in Florida.

  22. Christie2012 says:

    Dorothea-facts not feelings

    The governor’s proposal, part of a bill aimed at overcoming a $137 million deficit in the current budget and a projected $3.6 billion hole in the next two years, would allow collective bargaining on wages, but not pensions and health care. Workers would be required to pay more for both. And raises would be limited to the inflation rate, unless voters approved steeper boosts(Wall Street Journal).
    On your claim about using illegals, a 3rd party contract administrator paid for by the government to oversee all contractors working with stimulus funds. So if illegals are being used, the government is turning the blind eye.
    P.S. Next you will be saying the National Guard was called up to fight the protester and maybe reference it as being the next Kent state in the making!

  23. Dorothea says:


    The Wall Street Journal is now owned by Rupert Murdoch and is not as reliable a source as it once was. The $137 million dollar deficit is the result of Wisconsin’s governor lowering business taxes. Read the proposed Wisconsin bill, it excludes government workers from collective bargaining.

    As for the illegal workers, they were, in fact, rounded up and sent home to Mexico after some very astute veterans spotted them working on the hospital.

    P.S. The National Guard was put on alert. State Troopers WERE sent out to round up the missing state senators who left the state in order to block a vote on this bill.

  24. Liana G says:

    At Christie 2012 – but as Pierre stated

    ‘ Florida is a preview of America’s banana republic future, with Scott doing the peeling and rest of us invited to slip.’

    Greece Is A Corrupted Banana Republic Of A Country

    Corruption in Greece has been systematically cultivated by all governments and parties. Everyone has relatives living off the public sector in cushy, do-nothing jobs. They get paid through various funding sources that successive governments have created so even though the nominal wage is low the actual take home and all benefits are quite high.

    Another important dimension to the public participation in corruption is that the rich by and large do not pay any taxes. The only people who pay are those who can’t escape the clutches of the state: pensioners and civil servants i.e., sectors where the salaries can be accounted for.

    According to the President of the National Bank of Greece, 30% of the budget of the last administration was unaccounted for—yes, just disappeared into the coffers of their families and well-wishers, and I would guess the other 70% was never audited.

    The common psychological traits of the corruption are what the ancients called alazoneia (brash presumption of knowledge by the ignorant) and anaischuntia (shamelessness). . .

    Most people in their little niches of decay are “expert” at this. They “know” the ropes. As the country psychologically devolves there are no lines demarcating the “good from the “bad”, “responsibility” from irresponsibility”. No one ever goes to jail; no one gets punished. . . .

    One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front. This too has not seeped in. . .

    And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.

    (Ate is the Greek word for “ruin, folly and delusion”)

    Read more:

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