Doyle-Barrett Railroading Wisconsin Taxpayers Racing to Spend $300 Million to Build Boondoggle Train Before Walker Elected Governor
Wauwatosa – Keith Gilkes, campaign manager for Scott Walker, released the following statement on news that Gov. Doyle and Mayor Barrett are racing against the clock to commit to spending another $200 million above prior estimates of $100 million on high-speed rail before the next governor takes office.
“If Governor Doyle had any confidence that Tom Barrett would be elected the next governor, they wouldn’t be spending another $200 million beyond earlier estimates of $100 million faster than the federal government can borrow it,” said Gilkes. “Doyle and Barrett know that if Scott Walker is elected governor, he will stop this train. Trying to railroad the people of Wisconsin into paying for this train through runaway spending is outrageous and insulting.”
Gilkes pointed out that only weeks ago DOT officials estimated spending for the train would be $100 million. The officials also said that, “If the next governor wants to stop the project…there is language in the contracts that enables the state to cancel them.”
“The reality is that Jim Doyle and Tom Barrett don’t deny that this train would cost state taxpayers nearly $10 million every year to subsidize their pet project, and officials concede that the train could be stopped. Tom Barrett knows that people across Wisconsin don’t want this $810 million boondoggle train – why else wouldn’t he agree to be interviewed for this story?”
State speeds train spending $300 million in contracts projected this year, far above $50 million announced earlier
By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel
Madison — The state is steaming ahead with establishing a federal high-speed rail line, projecting it will commit $300 million this year - far more than the roughly $50 million in spending previously announced.
The project's price tag isn't changing. Instead, Gov. Jim Doyle's administration is hustling to move forward with the planned passenger rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, which Republicans say is an attempt to make it harder for the next governor to cancel.
GOP gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Neumann have said they would stop the train line regardless of how much the state spends in the next few months because of concerns about taxpayer subsidies to operate the system. Calling the accelerated spending a bluff, Walker said Monday that a new governor could get the state out of contracts entered into by the Doyle administration.
"By the end of the year it is anticipated we will have expended $300 million," state Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said Sunday in an interview on "UpFront with Mike Gousha."
Busalacchi aide Cari Anne Renlund clarified Monday that the state will have spent or entered into contracts for roughly that amount by the end of the year but won't necessarily have spent that much. The construction of the $810 million line is being paid for by the federal government, but the state could be on the hook for both the spending and possibly the contracts signed on it so far if the state doesn't finish the construction.
Walker, the Milwaukee County executive, said he did not believe Busalacchi's new figure of $300 million. He said the state may sign contracts worth $100 million or so before the end of the year, but he believes as governor he would be able to break those contracts and pay only for the work that has actually been performed.
"I think this is all just part of the political rhetoric to try to intimidate people into thinking this is a done deal, and I just don't think people are going to buy it," Walker said. "I think in the end this is more a bluff on their part."
The route, which is supported by Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and previously had the backing of thenGOP Gov. Tommy Thompson, would be an extension of Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line and eventually could be extended to the Twin Cities. It would start service in 2013 at a top speed of 79 mph, increasing to 110 mph by the end of 2015.
Earlier this year, the state estimated it will have spent nearly $57 million in federal funds for the Milwaukee-to-Madison route, according to the state's application for the federal dollars. Renlund said she didn't have a new estimate on how much will actually be spent.
Renlund said the state is spending $52.4 million for design work on stations and the overall rail corridor on the line, $140 million in contracts for work on building raised land bridges that will start in October, and $50 million to $100 million in contracts for materials such as steel and railroad ties. Renlund said it would be "difficult to predict" what would happen if the next governor tried to cancel contracts for work or goods that haven't been delivered yet.
"We know that if we spend and commit money that was given to us by the federal government and we don't produce the project that was promised with that money, we have to give that money back," she said.
Neumann, a homebuilder and former member of Congress, criticized Doyle for "burning through as much money as humanly possible" on a poorly thought out project that will be a long-term burden to taxpayers. Walker says he would rather see the train money spent on fixing roads and bridges - a position Doyle has called ridiculous because the money is reserved by Congress for rail lines and can't be spent on anything else.
Barrett was campaigning Monday in Green Bay and unavailable for comment, spokesman Phil Walzak said.
"There seems to be universal agreement that ripping up the tracks will cost Wisconsin taxpayers at least tens and tens of millions of dollars," he said.
Walzak said Walker was inconsistent on rail because as a lawmaker in the 1990s he voted for state budgets that included $50 million in bonding for passenger rail and allowed no-bid contracting for passenger rail service and equipment. Walker's campaign said he voted for those budgets because they controlled spending, not because of the rail elements.
Legislature OK'd spending
Renlund said stopping the project would require the next Legislature and governor to pass a law because spending of the so-called federal stimulus money for transportation projects had been included in the 2009-2011 budget bill, and the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved the spending for the specific project in February.
Walker said he believed he could stop the rail line without the backing of the Legislature. But he said that support from lawmakers would be helpful and that voters should put Republicans in charge of the Legislature to make stopping the line easier.
By the 2012-'13 fiscal year, the state projects that Hiawatha annual operating costs would grow to $24.2 million for the Milwaukee-to-Chicago leg, plus $16.5 million for the Milwaukee-to-Madison leg, to be covered with $25.1 million from riders and $15.6 million from state and federal taxpayers.
In the Gousha interview, Busalacchi said the project would be a "great economic boon" for the state because it would connect Wisconsin with the Twin Cities, Chicago and the rest of the Midwest. He said the state spent $2.1 billion last year on bridges and roads in the state, or $360 per person, compared to just $1.38 per person on passenger rail.
Busalacchi said a planned stop in Oconomowoc now being dropped by state officials was "irrelevant" to the success of the overall line. State officials say city officials there didn't want the station but the city officials dispute that, saying they had only raised questions about costs and financing for it.
"We're going to move ahead with the project. Whether we have these intermediate stations is irrelevant. We can do this project without those stations if we have to," Busalacchi said.
Text SCOTT to 46262 for updates
Paid for by Friends of Scott Walker, John Hiller, Treasurer