Dear President Obama:
Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray La Hood was in Wisconsin to release $46.7 million of the $810 million in federal stimulus money designated for a train line between Milwaukee and Madison. Releasing these federal funds now is both premature and irresponsible. Public support for the Madison-Milwaukee train has fallen to just 41% as weary taxpayers watch our roads and bridges crumble without sufficient funds to repair them.
Still, Secretary La Hood declared that: “High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin," and "there's no stopping it."
I am drawing a line in the sand Mr. President: No matter how much money you and Governor Doyle try to spend before the end of the year, I will put a stop to this boondoggle the day I take office.
It’s outrageous for Secretary La Hood to suggest that your administration can force Wisconsin to continue building a train it doesn’t want and cannot afford. Almost as outrageous as the fact that the decision to saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with untold millions in operating and maintenance costs, forever, was never debated or voted on by the Wisconsin legislature. If it had been, this letter would not be necessary.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, my opponent in the race to replace Governor Doyle, has made the Milwaukee to Madison train the centerpiece of his economic development plan for Wisconsin. The Mayor tells us that spending $810 million on high-speed rail will create thousands of new Wisconsin jobs, but according to the federal government’s own estimate, the total number of permanent jobs created will be 55. That’s $14.5 million per job, not including any hidden costs!
As for hidden costs, no one in your administration, nor Governor Doyle or Mayor Barrett can provide an accurate estimate of what it will cost to operate and maintain the new rail line. Rail projects in numerous other areas have seen original cost estimates skyrocket once construction begins.
In addition, study after study shows that rail passenger fares are likely to cover only 20% of the operating costs. That leaves hardworking Wisconsin families to pick up the other 80% through higher taxes and fees.
It’s reckless of Governor Doyle and Mayor Barrett to commit to spending $810 million of our money on a boondoggle train when we can’t even afford to fix our roads and bridges. Our state is facing a $2.5 billion hole in next year’s budget and a list a mile long of transportation needs. If your administration is truly interested in helping Wisconsin build the transportation infrastructure it needs and desires, you should allow us to use this money for roads and bridges instead.
Governor Doyle and Secretary La Hood say we can’t stop the train. I say, just watch us.
Milwaukee County Executive Republican Candidate for Governor
NOTE: Yesterday, Scott Walker released a new ad telling President Obama to stop the train entitled, "Yes We Can."
Paid for by Friends of Scott Walker, John Hiller, Treasurer