Gov. Rick Scott's decision to cancel Florida's high-speed rail projects (for now) rebukes the Republican-led Legislature's decision in December 2009 to build a bullet-train network that would compliment local rail projects, such as SunRail in Central Florida.
Below are a sampling of the rah-rah quotes that Republicans gave as a compelling reason to vote for high-speed rail during a hastily called special session on the issue. How much of this did they believe, how much was/is true and how hard will they fight to justify what they said a little over a year ago?
Dec. 3: Senate President Jeff Atwater (and current state Chief Financial Officer) "This is indeed time for visionaries." (More Dec. 3 commentary below)**
Dec. 4 House Republican Leader Adam Hasner (now a likely U.S. Senate candidate): "I understand why people are concerned about the projected cost of what these projects are going to be.. But these are longterm investment decisions in our state's infrastructure."
Dec. 7: rail bill sponsor, Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral: "This is about transforming Florida's future."
December 8: Rail sponsor and Sen. Andy Gardiner (current Republican leader): "We have put forward a vision for rail all around the state of Florida.... But if we are serious about rail in the state of Florida, it has to be a comprehensive approach."
Sen. Don Gaetz: "Every single penny that would go to the support of this bill would come from the transportation trust fund. It is an egregious departure from the facts to suggest that we are balancing education and health care against this bill, when it is simply not true. The people of Florida have agreed to fund transportation projects. We should not make everything that we might do in rail transportation in this state hostage to getting full funding right now on everything."
**Dec. 3: Gaetz:
“The President made it very clear this morning that we have to take a broad view of the economic impact of any legislation. Unemployment in Florida is at 11.2% and rising. This bill will maintain jobs for Floridians and create jobs.”
“5,300 jobs would be created almost immediately after the passage of this bill and as we begin then to develop passenger rail there (I-4 corridor). Hundreds of thousands of people will be able to get to their jobs. That’s jobs for Tampa. That’s job for Lakeland. That’s jobs for Orlando. That’s jobs for Florida.”
“The Panama Canal is going to be expanded. We know that we need to fix our policies associated with our ports. We will be bottlenecked in international trade if we don’t have a rail system that can bring goods easier and quickly and less expensively than over the road hauling, to and from our ports. If we do not have a way to link our ports by rail with distribution centers and with manufacturing centers in the state of Florida, then will miss the dollars, the business activities and the jobs associated with international trade activity that could be exponential for Florida. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in cosponsoring this bill not because of any individual project that might be affected by this overarching statewide transportation initiative but rather because this is a forward looking economic policy in strategic benefits for our state.
"I grew up in a railroad town. I grew up in a railroad family. I know one thing. When I heard the sound of the train whistle, that meant jobs.”
“Senator Oelrich and I have similar philosophies. We certainly don’t want to create burdens on the public that might otherwise be avoided. The difficulty here, what Senator Ring pointed out, is that we really cannot stay in the status quo situation. if we don’t find cheaper, better, more environmentally friendly ways to move people, and that’s by rail, then what we wind up having to do is develop other ways to move people. And that means we have to build more roads, we have to widen roads, and when we do that it costs money. And unless it’s a toll road, all of the highway and the roadways in Florida, unless they are toll roads, they are by definition, losers.
"The increasing demands on our infrastructure are going to have to be expanded at taxpayer expense. Now, I’m a great believer in public/private partnership. There is nothing in this legislation that would prevent a public/private partnership. While this is contemplated as a public system, that could be undertaken, as part of this overall rail transportation strategy, that could place more risk and also offer more reward to the private sector."
"I would return to the main point, anything we do in transportation, unless it’s a toll road, the taxpayers have to pay for. The question then becomes, what should we do? Should we rely solely on more and more on highways, in a conventional sense, or should we look at what’s been done in other heavily congested and populated areas in the world to move people in a way that seems more to be efficient?
That’s the reason why I think the bill is helpful to those of us (like Senator Oelrich and myself) who care about the citizens dollars.”
Dec. 3 Sen. Mike Fasano, New Port Richey: "Thank you to President Atwater for bringing us together and for this wonderful piece of legislation. Members, the time has come to recognize that we here in Florida must complement our existing road systems with rail alternatives."
"This is vital as we seek to renew our urban industrial centers and build a stronger future to Florida. (This will) create jobs, stimulating our economy, and most importantly, alternative transportation systems."