Fla. governor rejects high-speed rail

Gov. Scott nixes last-ditch effort, saying taxpayers could be on the hook for billions in cost overruns

February 25, 2011

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a final plan to bring high-speed rail to the state, the Miami Herald reported.

The move angered many state lawmakers, who claimed that the governor overstepped his legal authority in canceling the plan. Even though the new proposal shifted responsibility to several cities, including Tampa and Orlando, Gov. Scott was worried about the potential burden it could place on taxpayers.

“I remain convinced that the construction cost overruns, the operating cost risk, the risk that we would give the money back if it’s ever shut down, is too much for the taxpayers of the state,” Scott told the Times/Herald.

However, many lawmakers said the move was a mistake and politically motivated. Some had hoped that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would give the state more time before reallocating the $2.4 billion in grants to other states. This would give them time to challenge the governor on constitutional grounds.

Gov. Scott based his decision on studies from the Reason Foundation and other conservative organizations, which said that poor ridership and substantial cost overruns could leave taxpayers responsible for billions.

The new plan called for a partnership know as a “non-recourse entity,” which would not make state or local governments liable for construction or operating costs if the project failed. The rail system would essentially be privatized, and the company would be responsible for construction and operating cost overruns.