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Nancy Smith

Rick Scott's Refusal to Take Stimulus Money for a Train in 2011 Was His Finest Hour

June 27, 2018 - 6:00am
Rick Scott
Rick Scott

Florida Democratic Party officials wouldn't acknowledge a Rick Scott triumph if it body-slammed them off the ropes on UFC Fight Night.

So, of course, when the governor announced the state is moving forward with privately funded high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa, the Dems couldn't just sit in silence and let the Republican Senate candidate take credit. FDP spokesman Nate Evans had to issue a statement.  

"Rick Scott had a chance to build a high speed rail line seven years ago," said Evans, "and Floridians -- especially those residents and businesses along I-4 -- have paid the price of Scott's self-serving politics. ..."

Silly to criticize this Scott decision. Downright boneheaded to criticize this Scott decision.

I Beg to DifferCut it any way you like, one of the most astute, most responsible decisions Rick Scott made as governor was the one in 2011 to turn down the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money to build an Orlando-to-Tampa high-speed rail line.

Scott measured the layers of cost to Florida against the benefits that high-speed rail presents. At the end of the process, he turned the stimulus money down for three reasons:

  • He predicted construction cost overruns would put Florida taxpayers on the hook for $3 billion.
  • He said low ridership would have required state subsidies.
  • He said the money would come with a caveat. If the project were shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion to Washington.

And he also said, when somebody could come forward with a plan for a privately funded Orlando-to-Tampa rail service, he would be "all ears." 

Scott made his high-profile announcement just two days after President Obama released his federal budget, which included a $1.65 trillion deficit.

High-speed rail was once a central part of Obama's vision for government -- one in which the nation's infrastructure, schools and health-care systems would be modernized to meet the challenges of globalization and expand the middle class.

Though the president gamely stayed the course on the whole of his vision, the grand project to create an interconnecting national network of bullet trains has been a stunning failure virtually everywhere except the most populated commuting corridors, where service doesn't have to be built from scratch. Even with billions upon billions of dollars in stimulus cash seven years ago, high-speed rail as replacement travel was always financially unattainable.

"Government has become addicted to spending beyond its means and we cannot continue this flawed policy," Scott said. "Let us never forget, whether it is Washington or Tallahassee, government has no resources of its own. Government can only give to us what it has previously taken from us."

I've always believed that was Scott's finest moment. It was bold direction amid a cacophony of legislator protest groups, snarky, spend-happy members of Congress and special interests in Florida hoping the stimulus money would make them rich -- interests who wanted to wrest the decision away from him, even take him to court.

In the end, Florida wasn't the only state to reject not-close-to-free "free" money for high-speed rail. Republican Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin doomed the initiative in those states, too. Ohio and Wisconsin money went to California; more than $2 billion from Florida's share went to 15 states and Amtrak.

We all know what a mess of graft, cost-overruns and political squabbling the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train project became over the last eight years -- in a state that now is so buried in debt, its citizens are considering splitting the state in three.

Coincidentally, on the same day last week Scott announced the state's pursuit of a privately funded, not-on-the-taxpayers'-dime Orlando-to-Tampa passenger-train service, he learned Moody’s Investors Service had just upgraded Florida's General Obligation (GO) bond rating to Aaa.

That's the leading international credit rating agency telling Florida it earned the highest rating possible -- for the first time in the state's history.

It really is a clear indicator of the strength of Florida’s economy and will save taxpayers money in future state interest payments.

“I am so proud of Florida’s amazing turnaround story over the past seven years," Scott said.

Here's what Moody's said: "The GO upgrade reflects a sustained trend of improvement in Florida's economy and finances, low state debt and pension ratios, and reduced near-term liability risks via the state-run insurance companies. Florida's economy is performing strongly in terms of job growth, and long-term growth prospects are favorable despite the challenges posed by an aging population base. State finances are characterized by healthy reserves and historically strong governance practices and policies that are expected to continue. The state has also maintained consistently low debt and pension liabilities that compare well with other Aaa rated states."

Look at California. Look at Connecticut. Try to imagine what Florida's credit rating might be today if Scott had taken the stimulus money in 2011.

“Since December 2010, Florida’s private sector has created more than 1.5 million jobs," Scott said last week. "Our unemployment rate has continued to drop, we’ve paid down $9 billion in state debt and we’ve made record investments in priorities that matter to families, like education and the environment. The entire country should take note."

Could Scott have done other good things for Florida with a different kind of budget leadership? Of course. But he chose to take care of the economy first, as Floridians have shown time and again they wanted.

The results paid off. 

Challenging the governor over and over on his successful measures to rebuild the state's crumbling economy when he took office is, well, as I said earlier ... boneheaded. 

By dissing Scott's decision to turn away from strings-attached stimulus money, all FDP spokesman Evans did was remind voters the Democrats really are the Party of Fiscal Wreckage.

And here's the problem for the blue team in November: In the last seven-plus years, the vast majority of Floridians have developed a taste for fiscal restraint. All alone in the voting booth, no way will they let that ride out on a rail.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


Well let's see, he was offered $2.4 BILLION that was given to ANOTHER state(s) after he turned it down. We now HAVE a PRIVATE high speed rail 40% that total cost is project at $1.5 Billion when complete. So his assumptions on price were wrong and OTHER STATES taxpayers are reaping the benefits of having the 2.4 billion dollars in government granted funds. That is @1 BILLION DOLLARS Florida taxpayers will never have the benefit of using, and now that it's privately owned and operated even the REVENUE is not going to the state as it would have if he would have taken the FREE MONEY it goes to a private company... it NOW does NOT help his taxpayers. The ONLY way it would have hurt of if it was indeed over 3 BILLION AND didn't make up that money in revenue that are TWO wildly big assumptions he made that we now know was WRONG. However it needed to be planned and constructed... since a private company is doing it for much less it absolutely was not going to cost the 2.4 Billion Dollars Florida was offered. At this point there is NO upside to not taking the money as we literally have hard facts now.


A fine, outstanding example of anti-Obama vitriolic rhetoric . . . . . . . reminds one of Trump's humanity, somehow . . . . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

VERY strongly stated, but true on all counts... but I try hard to maintain a Christian tongue.

This is about the dumbest article I have ever read. We have the transit system of a 3rd world country. You can literally take a train to just about anywhere in Europe for a fraction of the cost to fly or drive. Where was the proof for the cost overruns, for low rider numbers, for subsidized trips on the tax payer dime? There was none. it is the same place as the proof for insurance costs being the fault of Obamacare. It doesn't exist. It was made up, just like most of the Republican dogma especially under Trump the Chump. They believe if they tell the same lie enough times idiots will believe it, and they do, proving the namesake. There was no documentation to support the lies, it was all based on old train data that didn't even consider passenger rail. The same with insurance rates. As soon as Obamacare passed, your Governor and legislature promptly deregulated the insurance industry, so they no longer had to request permission to raise rates, inflate policies or get approval of any kind. The insurance commissioner job and office became the biggest joke in the country, except the joke was on all of us who had to pay 5 times as much for insurance. Floriduh at its finest...

The only cheerleaders for a high speed rail are those who represent the contractors and the simple minded. The surest way to get a Florida Income tax is the adaption of a never-ending sinkhole like a high speed rail. After the government subsidies run out, the Florida taxpayers have to kick in, any doubt, just observe the ever-increasing bloated debacle going on in California, their budget has ballooned way beyond the politicians promises and yet not one single track has been laid. Observe the light rail in Minneapolis, go there at any time of day and see two or three riders in the entire train and yet if you ask about the operating costs you get a complicated multi-layered obfuscation of facts which essentially tells you that train is costing Minneapolis plenty. Greyhound busses have been around forever and although they are not the same as a train, they offer service to Orlando and yet they have struggled to stay afloat since their inception. Gives you an indication of what the train would face as well. Yes, it was a very good and honest move for a politician to make, California should take note but they are more concerned with virtue signalling than taking care of their residents.

yeah, the city subways are a complete and utter failure...dumbass.

America was built on "railroads"; But, the Interstate Highway System (created under Eisenhower) made railroads ineffective and uniformly costly to maintain survival (freight transport, GONE ! and passenger transport, always in "death throes"),...Economically, railroads are now oddities, and ALWAYS bad investment "money pits". (America is NOT Europe "Bob Shanks",.. and hopefully will NEVER be ! "Liberal dogma" just won't 'cut it' "Bob Shanks", give it a rest)!

yeah, the city subways are a complete and utter failure...dumbass.

The size of Europe is a fraction of the size of America. Yes, they have good public transportation. The American PEOPLE are not very much like Europeans... American LOVE their cars much more than their Continental counterparts. While it is true that in "densely packed population areas" do well without private ownership of cars (New York is a Great example) public transport is a good solution. Like a great portion of Floridians, I speak from a solid middle-class life, and am not aware of the "Tax problems" to which you refer - WHAT tax problem are you referring to in particular? To older citizens, most seem quite happy. Perhaps you are coming from the LEFTIST perspective, and prefer that "The Big-Brother State" would gain power... and REDISTRIBUTE ALL PROPERTY!

EXACTLY correct! And 'ChromeDome' definitely NEVER had a "finest hour"! Every one of his hours as governor was sub-par and favorable ONLY to his favored special interests. He's a two-bit, tinhorn, carpetbagger ... and he should have been a felon ... NOT a governor!

We moved back into Florida from California over 3 years ago because of Gov Scott. He hasn't let us down and in fact has managed this state better than we could have ever wished for. We'll hate to see him leave the Governor's office but look forward to seeing him once again doing what is best for Florida, this time, on the Senate floor in D.C. DeSantis will do a good job filling Scott's shoes as governor of Florida. All is good and will remain so for our great state as long as fiscal conservatives are in office.

fiscal conservatives huh? you do realize that Trump the Chump has increased the deficit at a higher rate than any other president in history in their first year. At its projected rate he will increase the deficit 5 trillion dollars in 10 years.

THIS article, this morning, will definitely curdle "Ride-along-rocketeer-Zippy's" pablum breakfast (LISTEN, I can almost hear him: "Save TAX money?!?...But that's not the Senate way!!!...And believe me, I KNOW; I been there a very long time...and I swear to you, I NEVER touched any buttons or switches...just like they told me when I wuz in SPACE ! Wanna see my genuine space suit?...Hope to be buried in's in my Will...)

one can only hope you do not represent the collective intellect of voters in this state. You must be from up north...

Scot did dumb things as governor BUT he will be better than Bill Nelson.

I think, if Nancy Smith could be any farther up Scott's you know where, we probably wouldn't even know she was in the room. As a nation, we suck as far as transportation options. I don't mind flying, but at what price. A flight from Tampa to Miami is over 300 dollars, not to mention the frustration of the cavity search you have go through. Rail may be an archaic mode of travel, but it gets me there faster than driving. And I don't have to drive it.

Well, when they do YOUR "cavity search" "BobH", tell 'em to yank that "monkey in the rayon space suit" pain in the ass out, so both he (and you) can breathe better.... (and IF you are one of "Zippy's" campaign workers,...we'll ALL soon be able to breathe better..! )

So many election year conversions by Ricky. Who will he be the day after the election? Tea partier again, faux moderate, or fraudster as always. A ploy to pander to Puerto Ricans living in the Orlando area? Aren't all those trips to San Juan working?

What IS this: a case of "black calling the kettle brown" (or, some racist thing like that...). Oh, so many unnecessary, silly little things go on during pre-election season...

1984 is here.

Ditto Jerry, above. This article is an acknowledgement of "the Dunning-Kruger Effect".

You mean the effect that you, Robert and your pal Jerry suffer from?

So says the Democratic Socialist.

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith


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