Who Wants Florida’s $2.4 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds?

Gov. Rick Scott got to say no, yet again, to Florida’s dreams of high-speed rail.

The attorney for the state senators argued in Florida's Supreme Court to save high-speed rail funding.

Florida’s Supreme Court ruled this morning that Gov. Scott doesn’t have to accept federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Two state senators had filed a lawsuit, claiming Scott had “overstepped his authority” by turning down the money, since the state legislature had voted to authorize the project. (Check out Transportation Nation’s chronology of events.)

Scott put the final nail in the coffin this morning when he formally told Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for the last time, he was rejecting the federal funds for the project. LaHood had been trying for weeks to assuage Scott’s concerns by assuring him that Florida would not be held responsible for cost overruns and that private investors would assume most of the risk.

A USDOT spokesperson said the department had “addressed every legitimate concern Governor Scott has raised” and “repeatedly and clearly told Governor Scott and his staff that Florida would not bear financial or legal liabilities for the project.” Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Rep. John Mica begged him to change his mind. Still, no dice.

This morning, after talking to Scott, LaHood issued a statement saying, “The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will not only create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing sector in the near term, it is a crucial and strategic investment in America’s future prosperity. I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.”

He’s right about that – politicians from around the country – and especially the Northeast – have been lining up to ask for Florida’s hand-me-downs.

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