Full speed ahead

There is absolutely no reason not to accelerate spending on a worthwhile project that promises great economic benefit – including jobs.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial
August 25, 2010

So, the charge is that Gov. Jim Doyle is accelerating spending on a federal high-speed rail line to make the project unstoppable. Our reaction: Pour on the steam, er, coal, er, diesel? Whatever. Pour it on.

This project will be good for the state. Remember, this is federal stimulus money intended to put people to work. The sooner, the better.

Doyle isn’t running for re-election. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, supports the rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former congressman Mark Neumann, vying for the GOP nomination, want to kill it. Both indicate that they don’t much care that the state might have to repay whatever portion of the $810 million in federal funds is spent before the project is stopped.

Earlier, the state anticipated spending roughly $50 million this year, but Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said Sunday in an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” that the spending might be closer to $300 million.

Doyle should proceed full speed ahead. He was elected to two terms. As the saying goes, elections have consequences. He should be acting on his own principles, not anticipating a possible successor’s.

Then there’s this: DOT executive assistant Cari Anne Renlund estimates the spending will result in 5,500 jobs in the next couple of years. So, are Walker and Neumann talking about putting these people out of work?

Both GOP candidates contend that the subsidies that will be required to run the line are unaffordable. But Busalacchi, in the Gousha interview, said that state subsidies for bridges and roads dwarf the subsidy for rail – $360 per person as opposed to $1.38 per person on passenger rail.

In any other world but the election world, rail would be called a bargain. In any other world, having to repay the federal government for money spent on a worthwhile project – offering substantial economic benefit in jobs and by more firmly linking the state with Chicago and the Twin Cities – would be called the opposite.

Also the opposite would be telling the federal government to take that $810 million to another state, given that it is only to be used for rail. The question then is, will that money be spent on rail for Wisconsinites or for folks elsewhere?


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