Friday, February 18, 2011

Gov. Scott’s Train Wreck

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) thought he was done with the high-speed rail plans for Florida, but the state legislature — including 26 Republicans — have other plans.

From Washington to Tallahassee, Florida lawmakers scrambled Thursday to save $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail that Gov. Rick Scott rejected.

In Washington, members of Florida’s Congressional delegation met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who gave them one week to cobble together a complicated deal that would give the money to a private entity such as Amtrak or a regional planning organization.

“The cart’s in a ditch right now and we’ve got to figure out a way if we can all pull it out together,” said U.S. Rep. John Mica, an Orlando area Republican who is chairman of the powerful House transportation committee.

In Tallahassee, a veto-proof majority of the Florida Senate rebuked Scott in a letter that urged the federal government to give the state the money Scott has refused.

“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 LaHood.

The letter was authored in part 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.

That’s all well and good; it would be nice to get the funds and get the jobs, (and it’s also fun to see the GOP fighting among themselves) but what would also be nice is if they fought that hard for funding for education.

Meanwhile, Mr. Scott joins the ranks of Michele Bachmann, John Bolton, and every other annoying Tea Partier with an ego and a mailing list in thinking about running for the GOP nomination in 2012. That’s not really a big surprise; Mr. Scott ran against Barack Obama in his gubernatorial campaign last year, so it’s no big secret that he would try for it. I’d back him; every day he spends on the campaign trail running for president would be one less day he’d be in Tallahassee screwing up the state of Florida.