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Florida Voices: Comments, reaction around Florida to Gov. Rick Scott's SunRail decision

June 30, 2011 - 6:00pm

Paula Dockery, state senator, R-Lakeland:

"This morning, Governor Scott had his Secretary of Transportation announce that he will betray the trust of the conservative electorate who put him in office by moving forward with the least cost-efficient commuter rail project in the nation. This decision has completed the governor's transformation from businessman to political insider. When the SunRail/CSX commuter project is viewed from a purely business vantage point, the project falls so far below what a savvy business owner would accept that it is somewhat baffling.

"It is unclear if when making the decision the governor had a change of heart, if he simply succumbed to the desires of the big money special interests, or if he has a severe case of amnesia and thought that he was supposed to be representing CSX instead of Florida's taxpayers. Governor Scott's general counsel, a former CSX executive, admitted to giving blatantly false financial facts regarding high-speed rail in front of the Florida Supreme Court. For that reason, it is overwhelmingly disappointing but not altogether surprising that the facts about SunRail, a sacred cow of special interests, would be ignored and the decision would be based upon arguments put forward by highly paid public relations consultants, using Floridians' tax dollars.

"The facts are as follows: Nationwide, this is the lowest rated project for cost-effectiveness by the federal government, low ridership estimates, excessive liability is transferred from a for-profit corporation onto all Florida citizens, and it is a blank check waiting to be written by the taxpayers for any and all cost-overruns and operating subsidies. While 'warnings' were given to the local governments during Tuesday's dog and pony show, this fact remains: the agreement between the federal government and the state of Florida clearly places the financial responsibility for all but $300 million of a $2.6 billion project squarely on the backs of Florida taxpayers."

Beth Dillaha, president, Veto SunRail:

"I am very disappointed for I had supported and voted for Governor Scott for his promise to put Florida taxpayers first, to hold government accountable and to put an end to 'business as usual' in Tallahassee.

'Approval of the FFGA (federal agreement) places 100 percent of the risk for the failures of SunRail on the backs of the Florida taxpayers. The terms of this agreement should have been rejected by the governor or, in the least, renegotiated. USDOT was all too willing to negotiate the egregious terms concerning high-speed rail when Governor Scott rejected the deal as being too risky for Florida taxpayers and providing no return on investment to taxpayers.

"Governor Scott could have also required an agreement between the Central Florida local governments that commit them to covering 100 percent of all costs associated with SunRail, including liability for accidents, cost overruns, defaults on project deliverables and to cover the federal funding shortfalls. That would have eliminated Florida taxpayer risk and ensured local politicians, who will be gone in seven years, had skin in the game.

"Unfortunately, the short-term interests of those who will make money off this project have trumped the long-term interests of the taxpayers that will be responsible for paying the deficits for generations to come.

"The silver lining in this, however, is that the light has been shone on SunRail as the poster child for bad rail projects and government waste. As the New York Times reported, this project is the least cost-effective in the nation, is a sweetheart deal for CSX and is the pet project of John Mica. The people of Florida are now informed and thats a good thing."

Ananth Prasad, secretary, Florida Department of Transportation:

The local officials told me they strongly support SunRail and will work with the state and businesses to ensure its success. Furthermore, they clearly understand that the local governments will cover cost overruns.

Be assured, I will hold the local officials and the private businesses to their commitments to make SunRail succeed.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, and chairman of the House Transportation Committee:

I commend the governor for moving forward and joining with local and federal partners in approving this transportation milestone.

This is as significant for the state as when Henry Flagler brought the railroad to Florida and when President Eisenhower initiated the Interstate.This transportation alternative offers the only real cost-effective, near-term solution for our regions highway congestion, and will have tremendous benefits for employment."

Robin Stublen, tea party leader, Charlotte County:

"During his campaign, Governor Scott told us that we must hold government accountable, that we must hold him accountable. I have always believed that even before Governor Scott was elected. With his decision on SunRail I believe it even more today.

"That is why I hold former Governor Charlie Crist accountable, for it was he who called the special session in December of 2009. It was Senate President Jeff Atwater who made the "deal" with Senate Democrats to get SunRail passed in the Senate.

"I hold Mike Haridopolos, Adam Hasner, Mike Fasano and Dean Cannon accountable since they all voted for and vocally supported SunRail. From Washington, George LeMieux and John Mica supported SunRail and Mica especially used his influence. I hold Buddy Dyer and the local elected officials accountable as well, for it was their votes that sealed the deal.

"While other one-issue opponents focused on the fiscal issue of SunRail, I decided to see where in the Florida Constitution that a current governor could overturn a bill signed by a former governor and money appropriated by the Legislature. I found nothing, no power to overturn. Therefore, I am having a difficult time holding Governor Scott accountable for decisions that were made two years prior to him taking office.

"However, I am sure that the media will give Governor Scott credit for creating 100,000 jobs instantly as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has stated would happen if SunRail were to go forward."

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park:

SunRail will have a significant, positive economic impact on the Central Florida region. I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the economic benefits of this project with Governor Scott, and I appreciate and commend his thoughtful decision today.

This project represents an important partnership between the federal government, the state of Florida, a consortium of local governments, and numerous private companies who have expressed a commitment to and a financial stake in the long-term success of this commuter line.

Rail is an important component of a modern, multi-modal transportation infrastructure, which I believe is the mark of a dynamic and growing economy. Moving forward, we will continue to work with Governor Scott to support transportation projects that protect the long-term interests of our state through a balance of state investments, federal support and local commitments in order to meet our shared goal of fostering an economic climate that provides private businesses the opportunity to thrive.

Scott Arceneauz, executive director, Florida Democratic Party:

By approving the SunRail project today, Rick Scott made it clear that he killed high-speed rail and the 71,000 job-years the project would have created as a partisan ploy to attack the president.

Considering experts agree that all the reasons Rick Scott cited and the questions he raised in stopping the critical investment in Floridas infrastructure applied to the SunRail project much more than the high-speed rail project, his actions are clearly an attempt to bail out his toxic poll numbers."

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