By Tom Tillison
Florida Political Press
And the high speed rail 'waltz' continues here in Florida, or shall we call it the high speed 'hustle'?
Gov. Rick Scott emerged from a meeting Friday with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing the same caution he has exercised before on high speed rail. "He's a believer," Scott told the Buzz. "I'm the one that's responsible to the taxpayers of Florida, though."
Also, The Miami Herald reports that Scott has slammed the brakes on Central Florida's $1.2 billion SunRail project, putting a hold on $235 million in contracts for the project. Contracts that include $168 million to design and build the first phase of the line and $39 million to buy cars.
An executive order issued by Scott immediately after taking the oath of office froze hundreds of contracts, with the SunRail contracts being among the first targeted by the governor for further scrutiny.
So where does the Governor stand on rail? His actions tend to indicate that he's not a strong supporter, yet, he continues to say that he is awaiting the results of a feasibility study due next month before he makes any decision on high-speed rail.
In the meantime, Scott is under a heavy lobbying effort to approve the HSR project. Associated Industries of Florida recently announced the formation of a high speed rail coalition of private-sector companies to "ensure this valuable project remains on track".
This HSR coalition is headed by Al Cardenas, a former state Republican Party chairman. In addition, the Cardenas' firm just hired Lanny Wiles as a Senior Counselor. Wiles served as Scott's Tour Director for the 2010 campaign and as a Senior Advisor to the Scott/Carroll Inaugural Committee, and also happens to be married to Susie Wiles, who just happens to have directed Scott's campaign.
Oh, and by the way, AIF contributed close to $300,000 to the RPOF in 2010.
Reader's who suddenly feel the need for a shower are excused...
Scott was also paid a visit this past week by Congressman John Mica (FL-7), Chairman of the Transportation Committee, who, in his own words, is the "best Cheerleader" for high speed rail.
Tea party and 9/12 Project leaders are still awaiting equal time to present their opposition to this project, having requested such a meeting several weeks ago. Reports are that Scott has agreed to meet with representatives of the various grassroots groups, although the logistics of this meeting appear to still be a challenge.
So the GOP heavy hitters, Scott cronies and 'Big Money' have all aligned to ensure that HSR stays on track. Looks like business as usual here in Florida. Of course, if successful, Florida taxpayers will also be "on track", with a speeding debt obligation about to overrun them.
The high speed rail project gets 90% of its funding from the federal government using borrowed money our children and grandchildren will have to pay back with interest. Nationally, it will put our nation $1 trillion deeper into debt. This is unacceptable regardless of who pays the additional 10% here in Florida.
Unless, of course, you are among those who stand to be rewarded nicely from the misery of others.
At the end of the day, it all rests on the broad shoulder's of Gov. Scott, who's in a very difficult position. Approve rail and run the risk of disenfranchising the grassroots organizations that played a key role in his election, or, shut down high speed rail as a project that Florida just cannot afford and further alienate himself from Big Money and the GOP power structure in the state.
Meanwhile, the taxpayers of this state continue to be held over a barrel. The historic results that this nation witnessed in this past November's election were a direct result of the Democrat Party blatantly ignoring the will of the American people. It would be a wise and prudent move for the Republican super majority here in Florida to take heed of this. Otherwise, this could turn out to be the last dance for many.