By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press
A letter was delivered to Governor-Elect Rick Scott this afternoon, outlining the tea party movement’s opposition to high speed rail. It was signed by a collection of tea party leaders throughout the state.
In what promises to be a very spirited contest, the rail issue is shaping up to be an early line in the sand in the precarious relationship that exists between the tea party movement and the Republican Party.
Florida Liberty Alliance
November 11, 2010
Dear Governor-Elect Scott,
The elections last week sent shockwaves across the nation as the electorate overwhelmingly rejected tax and spend candidates in favor of candidates espousing fiscal responsibility and government restraint. Florida was no exception. Gov. Scott, you are a Republican outsider that prevailed with an agenda that promoted both a reduction in spending and taxation. We trust you will fight to reduce government spending as you are sworn in this January. We can think of no better symbol of wasteful and unnecessary spending than passenger rail in all its forms.
You were rightly skeptical of the cost-benefit ratio of high speed rail. You could take notes from New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie who potentially saved New Jersey over $5 billion dollars in escalating cost overruns when he shut down an expensive tunnel project and returned $350 million in funds already received from the federal government. Both governors-elect from Ohio and Wisconsin have signaled they would prefer to shift federal money allocated to building high-speed passenger rail lines in their states to more critical infrastructure projects such as road and bridge projects.
Despite Florida voters rejecting high speed rail in 2004, the Obama Administration has promised over $2 billion dollars of our nation’s treasure to fund a high speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando. Even if the feds agreed to pay all the remaining capital costs, thought to exceed $300 million dollars, Florida would be required to pay for any cost overruns which average 40% or more. This factor would likely add an additional $1 billion dollars or more to our state debt just for the Tampa to Orlando leg of the route! The cost of the “Big Dig” in Boston grew three times the original forecast from $5 billion to more than $15 billion with the state picking up that increase at the expense of completing critical road improvements.
Also consider that once rail is in place, Florida would be on the hook for yearly Operating and Maintenance costs. This annual cost would be staggering as ticket revenues for passenger rail typically account for a mere 20-30% of the operating and maintenance costs. Where in the state budget will we find such a sizeable recurring revenue stream? It would most assuredly necessitate a new tax on Floridians.
Furthermore, accepting these federal funds for rail is a lot like checking into Hotel California because once you “check-in” by accepting federal dollars, you can never “check-out” without repaying the billions of dollars previously accepted and already spent. Gov. Christie found this out recently, but realized the $350 million cost to exit what was turning into a boondoggle, was preferable to losing billions in the future. If we act swiftly, we can escape this financial trap with minimal cost.
Governor-elect Scott, we are concerned that you may be influenced on this issue by incoming leadership who supports high speed rail and commuter rail. Paula Dockery is on your transition team and has been an outspoken advocate of high speed rail as well. We implore you to meet with members of the tea party movement to seek an alternative viewpoint on this subject. We can point you to policy experts from CATO Institute and Heritage Foundation whom we have been working with on this issue. We can tell you that high speed rail will not result in congestion relief for our roads. We will show you that 100% of passenger rail systems in the US are on the public dole and require new dedicated funding streams to sustain them. We can tell you that private solutions to transportation between Tampa and Orlando already exist that don’t require any investment by citizens of Florida nor will they grow the size of our government.
We would like you to reject the high speed rail project and we look forward to the opportunity to speak to you on this and other important matters affecting our great state.
Karen Jaroch & Tim Curtis Tampa 912 Project
Sharon Calvert & John Hendrix Tampa Tea Party
Tom Tillison & Jason Hoyt Central Florida Tea Party Council
Clyde Fabretti West Orlando Tea Party
Don Hensarling The 912 Project
Pat Wayman Venice area 912
Karin Hoffman DC Works For US
Billie Tucker & Carole McManus First Coast Tea Party
Robin Stublen Punta Gorda Tea Party
Thomas Gaitens FreedomWorks Florida
Paula Helton & Alan Berkelhammer Gainesville Tea Party
Don Forward Titusville Patriots
Kathy Gibson CWA-Orlando
Pam Evans DC Works For Us-Aventura
Jesse Phillips Citizen2Citizen
Bill Landes Florida Minuteman
Maureen Siebold Lakeland 912
Steve O’Neal Winter Haven 912
Kim Irvine Pasco 912 (Tampa 912)
Barb Haseldon South Pinellas 912
Cheryl Couture SW Florida 912
Tina Woode Seminole County 912 Project
Nancy Meinhardt Miami 912 Project
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