It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why Governor-elect Scott Walker doesn’t want high-speed rail in the state of Wisconsin.
How else can he “thank” some of his biggest contributors and staunchest supporters—the road construction industry?
What do we mean? The governor-elect wants the federal government to take back the $810 million in stimulus money President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation is giving our state for high-speed rail and, instead, use the money to repair roads and bridges Walker says are crumbling.
Walker says using the $810 million for road and bridge repair work will spur job creation and expand the state’s economy. He objects to the state having to spend an estimated $7.5 million to operate the rail line if it was built.
As quiet as it was kept during—and, apparently, after the campaign—the reason Walker wants to divert the $810 million to roads and bridges is to pay-back the road building companies who contributed millions to his campaign coffers.
And by diverting the high-speed money to future road and bridge construction, Walker can also keep another promise…to create 250,000 jobs in our state.
But we doubt there are enough broken bridges and pothole ridden, crumbling roads to allow Walker to make good on his jobs promise. And besides, if you read our front page story in our November 3 edition on minority and women construction apprentices being overlooked for state highway projects, we don’t think many of those quarter million jobs would be earmarked for minorities and women. It just wouldn’t sit well with Walker’s highway construction friends.
And there’s another closely guarded secret that may also be behind Walker wanting to “thank” the road construction industry: The outlook for increasing federal highway funding looks somewhat dismal. The federal highway trust fund is reportedly bankrupt because spending exceeds revenue.
And with the Republicans in Congress pushing to lower the deficit, increased funding for transit looks considerably bleak.
Which leaves Walker one option to pull out of his brown paper lunch bag, one we don’t think the governor-elect would find very appetizing: Raise taxes to make up for the (possible) loss of the rail money and dwindling federal highway dollars.
It will be interesting to see how Walker will handle this—his first real challenge as the chief executive of the state; and he hasn’t even taken the oath yet.
Our advice to Walker: Keep the rail money and use it to create what the state estimates to be 5,000 in rail construction jobs. That would leave what…only 245,000 jobs left to create Scott!