The Tribune’s endorsement of Scott Walker for governor included this sentence: “We think Walker is absolutely wrong about high-speed rail … and he needs to understand that he’ll be the governor of the entire state, not just Milwaukee County.”
Gov.-elect Walker, we still think you’re absolutely wrong.
You said Monday that you don’t anticipate anything that will change your mind, but we suggest an overriding issue that should serve as the tipping point: If money leaves the pockets of Wisconsin taxpayers and goes to the state of New York to build high-speed rail and create jobs and commerce, it’s a lousy deal for Wisconsin.
During the campaign, Walker assured everyone that Wisconsin could take the federal money designated for extending high-speed rail from Milwaukee to Madison — more than $800 million — and use it for other infrastructure improvements, such as road and bridge repair and construction.
While we think that approach is short-sighted, at least it would have kept money earmarked for the Badger State here.
On Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — a former Republican congressman from Illinois — said that if Walker persists at halting the high-speed rail project, Wisconsin will lose that money to another state.
“None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road or highway projects, or anything other than high-speed rail,” LaHood said. “Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin’s project so we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”
Hello, New York.
Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democratic governor-elect, says he would love to take the money earmarked for Wisconsin and Ohio, where an incoming Republican governor has taken a similar stance as Walker.
In the meantime, Gov. Jim Doyle has hit the pause button on the project to link Milwaukee and Madison through high-speed rail, deferring the transition to Walker.
Doyle says he isn’t interested in playing political games with the project but insists that halting it now will cost Wisconsin taxpayers $100 million and cut 400 jobs — not something that sounds positive for our economy.
In his announcement, Doyle reiterated that Wisconsin was the only state to receive all the federal funding that it sought. In fact, our state received 10 percent of the $8 billion that the federal government provided for the project nationwide.
As you can imagine, this news doesn’t please Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
In a chat with the Tribune’s editorial board this week, Cieslewicz emphasized that if Walker is truly interested in boosting Wisconsin’s economy, high-speed rail is the right track.
“It’s not just important for Madison,” he said. “It should be important for the business community in La Crosse and elsewhere in the state.”
In his blog on the city of Madison’s website, Cieslewicz wrote: “The last two governors, (Tommy) Thompson and Jim Doyle, were huge supporters of high-speed rail, and now we’re on the cusp of making it happen. High-speed rail is incredibly important to our state’s economic future. It will put people to work now and put us literally on the map as a progressive, connected, high-tech state. And it’ll be heavily used. In Madison alone, DOT projects over a half-million riders in its first year of operation.”
Handing money from Wisconsin to New York is no way to boost our economy. That should be the factor that Walker uses to make his decision.