Gov.-elect Scott Walker, hoarse from his election night celebration, was optimistic on Wednesday that Wisconsin’s high-speed rail project could be stopped and that highway construction projects will move forward under his administration.
Just days before the election, state and federal administrators quietly signed a deal committing the state to spending all $810 million in federal stimulus money earmarked for the state to use on the Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed rail line.
GO TO THE DAILY REPORTER’S HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECT PROFILE PAGE
While at first blush it would seem the signed commitments would end the discussion, Walker said that may not be the case.
“I believe there are a couple of legal options for us,” Walker said during an interview. “We’ve had offers from lawyers coming out of the woodwork. They think we can slow it down or stop it entirely.”
Now that the Republicans will control both houses of the state Legislature and the governor’s office, reversing the agreements may be possible, he said.
Walker noted that he’s had experience undoing done deals.
He pointed to a smaller scale victory he won in 2003, soon after he was elected Milwaukee County executive.
“Remember the ‘Blue Shirt?'” Walker asked. “They said that was a done deal, but it’s not there, is it?”
Walker was referring to a $220,000 sculpture of a blue shirt that the Milwaukee Public Art Commission approved for the parking structure at General Mitchell International Airport. Some critics called the blue shirt a slap at Milwaukee’s working class past; others just didn’t see its artistic value. The flap made national news.
“It was ridiculous,” Walker said. “It didn’t fit with its surroundings.”
Eventually, an art dealer brokered an agreement and the sculpture was not displayed at the airport.
As for road construction, Walker said he’s looking for ways to move forward with projects despite the $250 million shortfall in the state’s transportation budget.
“I will be looking at what alternatives we have right now and what alternatives we have for the future,” Walker said. “We do have options.”
To raise transportation money, Walker said he is considering transferring vehicle sales taxes the state collects from the general fund to the transportation fund, and implementing toll express lanes on highways. Walker said he opposes traditional toll roads such as those in Illinois where all drivers have to pay to travel, but he supports those that allow drivers to pay to use less congested express lanes.
He also said he supports a constitutional amendment that would prevent raids on the transportation trust fund. Gov. Jim Doyle used money from the fund during his administration to support the general fund.
Residents in 54 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties voted Tuesday on a measure supporting such a constitutional amendment. All passed it.
“As governor, I will not raid the transportation trust fund,” Walker said. “I also support a constitutional amendment that would ban the practice in the future.”
Walker also touched on sewage dumping done by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. As governor, he will not have direct control over the dumping, but he could have influence.
He said he supports a gradual separation of the sewers in the portion of Milwaukee and Shorewood where a single sewer carries both storm water runoff and wastewater. The 26 other communities served by MMSD all have separate sewers — one for waste and one for storm water.
While MMSD officials say separating the sewers is too expensive, Walker disagrees.
“Back in July 2004 I had a short-, medium- and long-term proposal for dealing with the problem,” he said. “The long-term suggestion was that every time they tear up a street for another reason, they should put in a twin pipes.”
He also said homes that have downspouts connected to sewers should be required to disconnect.
“You can’t go back in time, but if that had been started back then, we’d be well on our way to solving those problems,” Walker said.
Unemployment and getting the economy rolling are his top priorities, he said, adding that he has frequently spoken to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a fellow Republican who Walker said came into office under similarly difficult times.
“He turned the state around,” Walker said. “He created 285,000 new jobs. That’s where my plan to create 250,000 new jobs came from. It’s been done before.”[polldaddy poll=”4031472″]
If deals can be undone, why not ‘undo’ the pension & backdrop agreements with the unions that are seemingly sinking the County budget into oblivion? That’s been a critical issue for the last eight years, not to mention the reason why Walker became county executive.
Quoting the article above: “Unemployment and getting the economy rolling are his top priorities, (Scott Walker) said, adding that he has frequently spoken to former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a fellow Republican who Walker said came into office under similarly difficult times. ‘He turned the state around,’ Walker said. ‘He created 285,000 new jobs. That’s where my plan to create 250,000 new jobs came from. It’s been done before.’ ”
Scott Walker conveniently neglects to mention that it was also Tommy Thompson who worked hard – very hard – on getting that $810 million windfall into Wisconsin for high speed rail. (Tommy Thompson has an Acela high-speed locomotive named for him.)
Another convenient Scott Walker inaccuracy is his constant reference to “the Milwaukee-Madison train” when in reality this is just one short link, the first in a major Midwestern rail program between St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.
And I say that Scott Walker, despite all his campaign-directed bluster and threats, is not going to be able to stop this mammoth jobs project.
My reason for backing Scott Walker was mainly because he was against this crazy high speed rail to nowhere. I feel that it would be one of our states biggest blunders by letting this high speed rail project continue on. First off, the $810 million would surely never cover the project cost leaving our wonderful state to pick up the difference of who knows how much in extra millions. Then there is the thought of just how much the state is going to have to subsidize this barely used hunk of metal down the road. You can bet that it will most definitely be all of the disgruntled Wisconsin taxpayers. So, why don’t we as a state put this high speed rail project to a vote to see if our taxpayers would like to continue funding such a project. I say that we need to tell the federal government that we would love to spend their $810 million on something like our neglected rough state roads. At least, our newly repaired roads would most definitely get used a lot and make life for ALL Wisconsinites much better.
First of all, it is not a train to nowhere. It is a link between the two greatest cities in Wisconsin. Secondly, we can not tell Washington we are going to use the money for something else. The money was given to us for one specific purpose and one purpose only.
Another point is that it is not the state would subsidize the operating costs–but riders and the feds–just like the Hiawatha line that connects Chicago and Milwaukee.
Just because you might not ever take the train–perhaps your OK with the more expensive option of regional airlines. However, it is not only about you or me but about tourism and the ultimate goal of connecting all the major Midwest cities.
High speed rail in wis. is the stupidest thing that ever has been dreamed up. Tourism is our biggest industry, are they going to put flat cars to haul all the boats, atvs, snowmobiles, etc.? And then what are these people going to do when they get to thier destination? Senetor Jauch recently said at a meeting I was at about how many jobs this would bring to the Eau Claire area, who the bleep is going to ride a flippin’ train for 5 hrs. each way to work!! They are all braindead! Hopefully we can roll back some of this so called “green” b as in b s as in s.
It seems that most opponents of high-speed rail are unaware that the Milwaukee to Madison leg is just a small part of the full project. Linking all of the larger Midwestern cities with each other and having stops in rural areas can do nothing but increase economic development in the entire region. This includes tourism.
If the Madison to Milwaukee leg is not a huge performer right off of the bat, just wait until Minneapolis is linked with Chicago when the project is completed. There will be a ton of people taking that train to and both cities. I bet that these opponents would have been against the interstate highway system if they were around during its initial construction.
Did Terry Henck really just bring up snowmobiles?
Here is a map of the full project. Educate yourself:
I think this would be great for the economy because it will keep the bums from wandering the streets and give them a break from the elements and a great place to pee. When all the bums squat, and set up their cardboard homes in these stations it will keep homeowners property values up because the bums are no longer there. Also it will draw in the graffiti vandals and give them a wonderful backdrop to spray paint all their gang signs, and filth which in turn means less graffiti in residential neighborhoods. Then lets not forget the muggers that will have a greatly isolated setting to hold up commuters, after all muggers have families to feed also. I cannot wait for the high speed rail system because it will draw all the criminal element to one location instead of throughout the city so please hurry, hurry,hurry and build this.
I agree that a highspeed rail is not needed at this time,what is needed is a rail system to get cargo from point A to point B and get those TRUCKS off the road. That would save a lot of fuel and save our highways for cars and buses. We Needd jobs now. Here in the North we have a rich deposit of Iron Ore and a co that wants to start to mine it, WHY DOES IT TAKE 7 YEARS TO GET THE PERMITS TO START IT! To cross the t”s and dot the I”s Should not take that long, LETS GET GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
“Concrete Scott” Walker was in a position to cost us 10,000 to 15,000 construction jobs, but he and his shadowy roadbuilder sponsors can’t stop the Hiawatha (or the Empire Builder, eventually) from going high-speed-rail.