Think Progress took note yesterday of a change of heart from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who blasted the economic stimulus law for its $8 billion in "wasteful spending" on high-speed rail — only to later seek $300 million of that money for a rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Yet Jindal’s not alone in his willingness to combine criticism of the stimulus with an open pursuit of government help with high-speed rail. Four of the six GOP governors who were aghast enough at the recovery law to consider rejecting part of their states’ shares are now in the hunt for federal aid for new rail lines.
Gov. Mark Sanford (SC) wrote in a March op-ed that "taking federal stimulus money will only postpone changes essential to South Carolina’s prosperity," but his administration was already in the thick of planning for a high-speed rail corridor that would ultimately extend from D.C. to Macon, Georgia.
"We absolutely must be planning ways to connect [the southeast] with our neighbors to the northeast in energy-responsible ways," South Carolina’s transportation secretary said after the release of a new high-speed rail study earlier this year.
Roy Tolson, rail program manager for the state DOT, said in an interview that the southeast corridor’s application for stimulus money was submitted by the Georgia DOT, on behalf of itself and both Carolinas.
Gov. Rick Perry (TX) turned down stimulus money for unemployment benefits in March, weeks after Houston’s mayor was warned by President Obama that the city might lose out on federal transit aid because of Perry’s move. The Texas DOT, however, has submitted 17 pre-applications for high-speed rail money that seek a total of $1.9 billion from the administration.
"As we look for more efficient ways to keep Texans moving, high-speed
rail is an important option, which is why I am supportive of … high-speed rail projects across Texas," the secession-minded Perry said in a statement last month.
Finally, Gov. Haley Barbour (MS) clashed with his state’s legislature over rejecting part of the stimulus after rapping the bill for "excess spending." Meanwhile, his administration is serving on the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission to help marshal support for a corridor that stretches aong the Gulf Coast.
Barbour also approved a bill passed in the spring by the Mississippi legislature that okays a $16 million bond offering, part of which will be available to help the state "obtain federal funding assistance" for high-speed rail.