This morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R-Medicare Fraud) announced that he is rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funds to build the first leg of a high-speed rail network from Tampa to Orlando.
When the Tea Party-backed governors of Wisconsin and Ohio turned down federal funds for their own high-speed rail projects, that money went to other states (including, ironically, Florida).
But Florida has a slim hope of avoiding that fate, thanks to our remaining Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson. Details below the fold.
"Can you imagine if a governor had tried to kill the proposal by Dwight Eisenhower years ago when he set up the interstate highway system? That is what we are facing today."
That was Sen. Nelson in his response to the news this morning that Gov. Scott had turned down the rail money, as reported by WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando.
Calling the decision to refuse the money "egregious," Nelson said he was working with lawyers in the U.S. Department of Transportation to see if there is a way for the money to be brought to Florida despite Gov. Scott's objections.
The Hill has Nelson saying that one option might to funnel the money through Florida's High-Speed Rail Authority, an entity established by Florida Law.
Of course, Gov. Scott could try to prevail upon the legislature to squash that idea by disbanding the authority, a move which seems likely to me given that since Scott believes he has succeeded in killing the high-speed rail project, there's no need for an agency to oversee it. However, he might encounter resistance, even in a Republican-dominated legislature, since the high-speed rail project has Republican support both at the state and federal level. And with there already being resistance to his draconian budget, this may be a fight he doesn't want to pick.
Another option, according to both the WFTV article and The Hill, would be to disburse the funds to the cities along the route. This option would probably win support from U.S. Representative John Mica (R-Orlando), a strong supporter of the fast train who tried to prevail (apparently without success) upon Gov. Scott to reconsider his decision.
At stake for Floridians is the $66 million already spent by supporters of the project, as well as an estimated 24,000 jobs, as well as a state-of-the-art transportation system which would benefit both our business community and tourism industry.
The teabaggers are already organizing to thwart Nelson. A post on the Patriot Action Network blog went up this afternoon urging readers to contact Nelson and tell him to "get his nose out of high-speed rail."
So I'm urging all Kossacks (in and out of Florida) to contact Nelson and support his efforts -- my guess is we outnumber the teabaggers. You can send Sen. Nelson an e-mail here, or, if you prefer, call his Florida office toll-free (from within Florida) at 1-888-671-4091 or his Washington, D.C. office at 1-202-224-5274.