(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) High speed rail has been a hot topic in Florida--and that state just won even more federal money ($800 million in non-stimulus DOT money added to $1.25 billion in stimulus) for a proposed line to connect Tampa and Orlando -so it's no surprise that it came up in last night's gubernatorial debate between Democratic candidate Alex Sink and Republican nominee Rick Scott. Scott tries to tar Sink with the implication that she'll raise taxes to pay for the project--and that he'll kill the project until he knows how to pay for it in its entirety. (Does this remind you of another governor?)
Sink's comments on the matter were lost to a broadly worded question on government spending in general. (Does she support raises for government workers (she says no) and expansion of Pre-K?) And then after Scott gave his answer, the moderators went on to ask Sink and Scott about the BP oil spill without teasing out Sink's views on High Speed Rail (though in the past she's voiced support for the project).
Watch the video --the question comes at about four minutes and 20 seconds in. The relevant transcript of the exchange is posted below (the full transcript is here).
Note: the Sarasota Herald-Tribune points out that Florida's Republican-led legislature endorsed the high-speed rail project last year.
ADAM SMITH (St. Petersburg Times): Today, the federal government awarded another $800 million for the high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, more than $1 billion in stimulus money. Would you axe that project? RICK SCOTT: So, my opponent has — she’s going to increase spending $12.5 billion and going to save $700 million. That’s Obama math. That’s exactly – SMITH: Are you going to pull the plug on the high-speed rail? SCOTT: High-speed rail, here’s we have to do: we have — every project we do, we have to get return for taxpayers. So, the way I look at it, on the high-speed rail, if the federal government is going to fund all of it, and there’s no — there’s nothing the state — going to cost the state any money, let’s look at it. But let’s look at a final feasibility study. Let’s look at exactly what the state is responsible for. But if you’re going to build an office building, you wouldn’t and say, I’m going to go build half of it with the money and wait and see, hopefully, somebody is going to show up with the rest. We shouldn’t be doing that with any projects like rail. Let’s make sure we have all of the money. Let’s do a final feasibility study. Let’s actually look at what the real return is. JOHN KING (CNN): So, put it on hold until you have that data? SCOTT: Absolutely. I mean, you wouldn’t — you wouldn’t go build a building unless you had — you knew exactly, you know, what the plan was. If you had all of the money, why would you do it with high-speed rail? Now, my opponent wants not only to do that, and but she wants to do it all the way to Miami and has no — she wants to do it. She’s committed to do it. But has no funding mechanism. There’s only one funding mechanism: increase taxes, and that’s what she’ll do.
Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
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