Florida Gov. Rick Scott Rejects Job-Creating Rail Money, Gets Bucked by Senators in His Own State

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's (R) decision to turn down federal funding -- and tens of thousands of jobs -- for a high-speed rail project isn't going over well in the Sunshine State. Even Republicans from D.C. to Miami found the decision incomprehensible.

But in an interesting twist yesterday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Florida aren't just complaining; they're working on circumventing Scott and getting the money anyway.

A veto-proof majority of the Florida Senate rebuked Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday in a letter that urged the federal government to give the state $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money that Scott wants to reject.

"Politics should have no place in the future of Florida's transportation, as evidenced by this letter of bipartisan support," said the letter, signed by 26 members of the Republican-controlled Florida Senate.

"This project would create real jobs, cleaner and smarter transportation and true economic development for Floridians," said the letter written to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The letter was partly authored by one of Scott's first senate backers, Republican Paula Dockery of Lakeland, who argued that the newly created Florida Rail Enterprise could act independently of Scott because the state's share of the rail money -- $300 million - was already approved last year by a previous governor, Charlie Crist.

As these state senators see it, Scott's too late. The legislature asked the federal government for the funding, and the previous governor approved the project. The new governor, the lawmakers are arguing, doesn't have much of a choice. As one conservative GOP state senator put it, "It's like trying to veto a bill after it becomes law. It's too late."

I have no idea whether this legal argument has merit, but I'm glad to see the relevant players working on it.

Indeed, the discussions are ongoing outside of Tallahassee, too. Sam Stein reported yesterday that Transportation Secretary LaHood is in talks with Florida's congressional delegation -- including members from both parties -- on how to work around the state's ridiculous governor. One of the ideas reportedly under consideration, according to an administration official, is the possible creation of "an entity that can run high-speed rail in Florida and get the state out of the way."

Meanwhile, states continue to line up to take the money and the jobs Rick Scott doesn't want. New York, Washington, and California are all clamoring for the funding and economic development that comes with rail projects like these.

Political Animal / By Steve Benen

Posted at February 18, 2011, 4:33am

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