Although this is not technically a piece of legislation, and there questions about the Republican governor’s constitutional authority to unilaterally reject the funding, I can’t think of a single Florida politician who has proposed an idea that is more ridiculous than this.
Florida’s unemployment rate has risen to 12 percent; it’s been higher than 10 percent for at least two years now. Florida has some of the highest mortgage and credit card delinquency rates in the country. There are few states with a higher foreclosure rate. The state’s economy, which has relied on construction, agriculture and tourism, is in shambles.
According to a recent Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll, 43 percent of Floridians feel their economic situation has worsened over the last two years.
And yet Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned on bringing jobs to the state, has refused a project estimated to bring up to 23,000 jobs, with thousands more created indirectly. He’s ignoring that the installation of the first high speed rail line in the United States could also bring Florida to the attention of large businesses wishing to move to a mass transit-friendly area. He’s neglecting the possible adverse effects that heavy traffic along the I-4 corridor have to the economy.
The economic growth caused by connecting two of the Florida’s biggest cities is hard to calculate but easy to imagine.
Plus, Scott seems to be deaf, even to his own party.
From the New York Times, quoting Republican representative John Mica:
Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican and the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he had tried but failed to talk Mr. Scott out of turning down the project.
Mr. Mica said the “federal government has done everything” it can, including agreeing to put up 90 percent of the rail link’s funding. He added that it “defies logic” that Mr. Scott would cancel the rail line before the state had received bids on the project.
From the St. Petersburg Times, quoting the respected Republican State Senator Jack Latvala:
“Making this decision, at this point, on a project that could mean 12,000 to 14,000 jobs is very premature,” said Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. “I have been consistent in saying we ought to at least let the private companies go to bid and let it play out.
“It’s in his court, and I’m very disappointed he made this decision without consulting the Legislative branch. I visited with him yesterday, and I had no inkling that they were heading in this direction. It shows kind of a lack of understanding and respect for the legislative process. It’s supposed to be a collaborative process — where the governor and Legislature work together — and this is not an example of working together.”
“We’ve cut off our nose to spite our face,” Latvala said. “To think that this money is going to go back into the federal treasury is ridiculous. The money will be going straight to California” and its proposed rail project.
From the St. Petersburg Times, quoting Republican State Senator Paula Dockery:
Sen. Paula Dockery, the Lakeland Republican who was an early supporter of Scott and a vocal high-speed rail proponent, said she was disappointed, and “it would have been more prudent” for the governor to allow private-sector bids to pay for the project before rejecting it. She said seven teams from 11 countries were prepared to compete for operation of the rail line.
Of course, Democrats are also not happy with the decision, especially Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who released a press release saying she was “terribly disappointed” by Scott’s decision:
We have missed an opportunity to make a long-term investment in our state that would have reaped major economic benefits. Even if you never rode the high-speed rail, we all benefit from having our tax money invested in Florida instead of in other states. We all benefit from a reduction in unemployment. We all benefit from encouraging the private sector to invest in our economy. The Governor’s decision is a missed opportunity for progress.
She continues with several points, which include an interesting fact: Floridians pay a gas tax that goes into that federal transit money, so in effect, we’ll still be paying for high speed rail — just in another state.
On public radio station WUSF, she made her feelings even clearer: “In my 26 years in public life, I think this is the worst decision a governor has ever made.”
Rick Scott’s explanation? He isn’t sure, but doesn’t think it’s economically sound. He’s taking his talking points from a libertarian think-tank called the Reason Foundation. I’ll save the punchline of who is on the Reason Foundation board of directors for fellow Florida blogger, Pushing Rope (at the bottom of the post).
I haven’t created a rating system yet for 2011’s most ridiculous legislation, but this inane decision deserves a symbol of something so absurd, so contemptible, so … villain-esque that any reader can’t be confused:
Rating: 5 Skeletors
(Special thanks to my new favorite Florida political website: Governor Skeletor)