The U.S. Transportation Department strips Wisconsin of the $810 million federal dollars the state was given to build high-speed passenger rail.
Wisconsin’s Governor-elect Scott Walker had said Wisconsin taxpayers can’t afford the Madison to Milwaukee line, and had asked the federal government to reallocate the stimulus money to repair roads and bridges.
Madison Democrat Mark Pocan, a member of Joint Finance, the legislative budget committee, says that was never a viable option. The real question now is whether spent money needs to be paid back. “The bottom line is not only did we not take the money and not create the jobs, but we also spent some money … now what I think you can seriously call a boondoggle because we didn’t do the train but we’re going to have to spend some dollars around it. A very foolish financial decision and we’re all going to pay for it.”
The Obama Administration had earmarked 8 billion dollars for a national high-speed rail program. Walker says he spoke to US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday and was told that the money already spent will NOT have to be paid back. “He assured me that the cost that has been incurred we’d not be paying back … the bottom line is we’re not going to have to repay it.”
Walker says he’s glad that the state transportation fund will not be on the hook for around $7.5 million of annual operating costs. The feds also stripped Ohio of $400 million for a train in that state, after its GOP Governor-elect also said no thank you. LaHood says he’s giving those funds — about $1.2 billion — instead to California, Florida, Washington, Illinois and several other states.