Return to sender. That was Governor Rick Scott’s response to Obama’s offer of $2.4 billion in borrowed stimulus funds to create 48,000 green energy jobs through the construction of European style high speed rail connecting the sprawling cities of Tampa and Orlando.
Scott’s decision was attacked immediately by the administration, Bill Nelson, Corrine Brown, and others, while poorly managed, broke states like California quickly started begging for the funds. I knew right then Scott made the right decision. Scott was also sued bipartisanly by Florida state politicians, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Scott’s favor yesterday, effectively killing high speed rail.
So why would I be so happy about the state writing void on the Fed’s $2.4 billion check and mailing it back? Because if you look beyond the pile of green, all you can see is red.
Every politician and newspaper (depending on what Florida city it is from) has their own math for calculating the costs. The government estimates that after Obama’s check for $2.4 billion, the state would have to either fund or find private investors to pick up another $280 million.
Then there is the unanticipated costs of figuring out whose property needs to be bought in order to lay the rail. Scott’s own team of advisers refigured the costs of the project based on the realities of California’s own experiment with high speed rail and found the Federal estimates to be a little optimistic, to the tune of another $3 billion dollars. Experts have also balked at government estimates of ridership.
One issue I see with ridership that not many are talking about is the size of the destination cities. I have been to Tampa and Orlando. They are not walking around cities. Once riders arrive in either city, they will need to secure local transportation. If it were me, I would prefer to have my car once I got to either destination. Obama, coming from Chicago and sitting in his office in DC, might think there is a large market for commuters between the two Florida cities. Having driven the rush hours between them, I don’t see it.
For Scott, this decision to cancel delivery on the Obama golden goose may also stem from the budget battle he is preparing to have in Florida’s capital. Scott is being accused of getting ready to cut $3 billion in education in Florida. But the reality is that Scott is simply refusing to continue paying the obligation that the Federal Government created with unfunded stimulus money last year. He is not changing Florida’s budget for education. It would be like deciding not to include one time lottery winnings in your future monthly budget.
Obama’s stimulus was designed to put broke states on the hook for higher spending on a social agenda that the Federal Government couldn’t even afford when they passed the stimulus bill. It was a bill designed to change America, create jobs for the sake solely of creating jobs with no sustainability, and set up a monumental legacy to Obama of green energy and government control. The President did not count on voters demanding fiscal responsibility.
But what about the 48,000 potential jobs lost that this $2.4 billion was going to secure for us? Fortunately Scott has a better plan. Instead of spending $280 million to $3 billion in state funds on a redundant transportation system between two cities, Scott is requesting $77 million to dredge Miami’s port so that they can start receiving larger ships from the expanding Panama Canal and expand trade with Asia. It is a project that will create 30,000 jobs and an agenda that will expand to Jacksonville’s Jaxport with likely the same results.
It is an idea that trades legacy building and big government agenda with private enterprise and economic growth. And it saves the government about $55,500 per job created.