Work to open the SunRail commuter train will be delayed as Gov. Rick Scott studies whether the central Florida line will cost taxpayers money. Scott froze $235 million in contracts in January and on Friday announced on Facebook that he's extending the freeze while he conducts a financial review of the $1.2 billion project.
So reads an AP brief into the matter. It's big news in the Orlando-area, and has big political implications in the state Capitol. House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican and de facto political leader of the Central Florida political elite, was a major but quiet force behind the train.
With SunRail approved in December of 09, it looked as if Cannon had everything he wanted before he became speaker. The apparent desirelessness was Cannon's greatest strength because the more you want in the state Capitol, the weaker you can be as a leader. Now Scott has leverage over Cannon, just as he has over Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who's running for U.S. Senate.
Scott certainly wants headlines, and he gets them in spades with moves like this. He can't lose right now. If he rejects SunRail, he's a hero to the anti-train tea partiers. If he lets it go, he has the gratitude of the Central Florida power structure -- and the tacit agreement of all its pro-Sunrail legislators to get in line, starting with Cannon.
Scott's office announced he'll delay the SunRail contracts until July -- that just happens to be the start of the new budget year and comes well after the end of the legislative session in May. All aboard?