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High-speed rail takes center stage in Walker, Neumann debate

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican candidates for governor made bold promises but outlined few details about how they would follow through with them Wednesday in the final debate before the Sept. 14 primary.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann promised to use $810 million in federal stimulus money coming to Wisconsin to build a high-speed rail line on tax cuts instead, even though the money can’t be used for that or anything other than the train.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker also promised to stop the train and said he could add 250,000 jobs within four years because that’s what former Gov. Tommy Thompson did in the 1990s.

“I know we can do it because we did it before,” Walker said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann speaks to reporters after debating Scott Walker, his rival in the Republican primary, in Oconomowoc on Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Ryan J. Foley)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann speaks to reporters after debating Scott Walker, his rival in the Republican primary, in Oconomowoc on Aug. 14. (AP Photos/Ryan J. Foley)

Neumann said he could add 300,000 jobs by having the University of Wisconsin System work more closely with businesses to create research hubs similar to what is being done in North Carolina.

Neither candidate spelled out in any detail how they will balance a state budget already projected to be about $2.7 billion short. And both have promised to repeal about $1.8 billion in tax increases that targeted, in part, large multistate businesses and couples earning more than $300,000 a year.

Despite being pressed in the debate at Marquette University Law School to explain how they would achieve their plans, both Walker and Neumann seemed content to stick to well-heeled talking points used for months on the campaign trail.

Both said they would root out government waste and

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker talks to a supporter before debating his primary rival, Mark Neumann, in Oconomowoc on Aug. 14.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker talks to a supporter before debating his primary rival, Mark Neumann, in Oconomowoc on Aug. 14.

fraud, streamline regulations, make the state more business-friendly and cut spending. Walker said he believed the popular BadgerCare program, which provides health insurance benefits to the elderly and other needy populations, had become bloated and should be cut.

Both candidates said they would prioritize education and public safety.

Neumann defended his plan calling for homeowners not to pay property taxes next year if they promise to pay the taxes monthly starting in 2012, calling it the largest tax cut in state history.

Walker said it was nothing more than a tax shift because the taxes wouldn’t be cut, the deadline for paying them would just be moved.

“You can’t cut taxes unless you cut spending,” Walker said.

Neumann, in perhaps the tensest moments in the otherwise collegial debate, said he understands how property taxes work because he is a real estate developer. “I understand you don’t get it, Scott,” he told Walker.

Neumann referred to his 26 years in business as a real estate developer at least seven times during the hour-long debate broadcast across the state on several television stations. Neumann also frequently held up the book he wrote during the campaign, which was largely a compilation of his press releases on a variety of subjects.

VISIT THE DAILY REPORTER’S HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECT PROFILE PAGE

Walker, who captured the Republican Party endorsement with more than 91 percent of the vote in May, said he has a proven record of being a reformer and he’s the best candidate to deal with the budget problem.

Walker, 42, has been in elective office since he was 25 serving in the state Assembly for nine years and as county executive since 2003.

Neumann, who served two terms in Congress in the 1990s, said his experience balancing the federal budget during that time makes him the better choice.

The winner will advance to meet expected Democratic Party nominee Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who faces only token opposition in the primary.

Barrett supports the high-speed rail line connecting Madison and Milwaukee. State transportation officials say by the end of the year $300 million of the $810 million coming to the state will have either been spent or obligated. Once built, the line is expected to cost state taxpayers up to $10 million a year to operate it.

Walker said that money would be better spent improving Wisconsin’s existing roads and bridges.

“People of Wisconsin will not see high-speed rail if I am governor, period,” he said.

Neumann boldly promised to use the federal money for tax cuts without ever saying how that could be done.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen at this point in time with that money,” Neumann said. “If we do get it, it’s going to tax cuts.”

Barrett, during an appearance earlier in the day in Middleton, said the real question is whether Wisconsin wants to give up the money that would then go to another state to build a rail line.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

3 comments

  1. This should speak volumes about the kind of sincerity we’re not reading from these two:

    “Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann promised to use $810 million in federal stimulus money coming to Wisconsin to build a high-speed rail line on tax cuts instead, _even though the money can’t be used for that or anything other than the train_.

    Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker also promised to stop the train and said he could add 250,000 jobs within four years _because that’s what former Gov. Tommy Thompson did in the 1990s_.”

    These two men are playing to the angry radicals for votes and can’t or won’t answer the consquences of stopping the under-construction rail projects with all its related jobs. Meanwhile every survey shows massive mainstream public support for rail in Wisconsin. Here are just two: http://poll.fm/1r88o and http://www.cbs58.com .

  2. This whole HSR plan was Tommy Thompson’s idea in 1996. Tommy Thompson – the consummate politician who now attacks his own original HSR plans – is the one who most lobbied for the grant money and the prestige it will bring Wisconsin. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the citizens of Wisconsin for my past votes and support for Tommy Thompson, who I once believed, and believed in.

    In the meantime, HSR rolls on nationally. The “Future of Florida High-Speed Rail Tour” exhibit will feature a HSR train starting October 7 at Tampa’s Museum of Science & Industry. Then the tour will continue on to Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee. We should exhibit our Talgo in the same fashion in all Wisconsin cities along the route (except maybe Oconomowoc.)

    Visitors will also have the opportunity to have their questions answered by high-speed rail experts – not posturing wannabe politicians – and will also be able to learn how high-speed rail is impacting other parts of the world today. This HSR model currently operates at high-speeds in Germany, Spain, China, Russia, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria.

    America, with all its spaciousness (and its cheap partisan obstructionist bickering) is so far behind the rest of the world. In 2006, a Velaro E trainset operated by Spain’s national rail authority set a world record for fastest unmodified commercial rail travel with a top speed of 250.85 mph between Guadalajara and Calatayud.

  3. Google “karen jeffries rail”. Its a gift that keeps on giving.
    Must be a paid blogger/ strawman for some type of rail association, but thats speculation on my part.

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