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More train hi-jinks: Scott puts brakes on SunRail

by Dara Kam | March 11th, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott has put the brakes on the $1.2 billion SunRail commuter train in Central Florida by freezing $235 million in contracts for the project until July while he decides whether to allow it to go forward.

Could give him some the upper hand with powerful GOP lawmakers who support the project, including Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, as they craft their budget? It’s due before the legislative session ends on May 6.

Nope, Alexander said.

“Unless he had my children in handcuffs I don’t think he can get leverage on me,” Alexander said after learning of Scott’s maneuver.

Read The Orlando Sentinel’s Aaron Deslatte‘s blog about Scott and SunRail after the jump.

Gov. Rick Scott is delaying a final decision about whether to let the $1.2 billion SunRail commuter train in Central Florida move forward until mid-summer, long after the 60-day legislative session ends.

The governor has kept $235 million in contracts for rail cars, an engine and construction for the 61-mile line on hold since January, saying he was reviewing whether to allow the project to go forward.

But because there is some federal transit cash involved in the deal, Scott’s office faced a March deadline to allow them to move forward or be scrapped.

Scott on Friday directed the Florida Department of Transportation to sign the contracts with added language that would lock in the prices but allow the governor to delay making a final decision on the project until July, officials said.

“Today, I asked the Florida DOT to lock in prices that would be associated with constructing the SunRail system in Central Florida,” Scott said in a statement.

“This action gives me time to review the costs and public concerns about this project. During the months ahead, I’ll complete a review of the financial impact this project could have on Florida’s taxpayers.”

Scott broke the news on his Facebook page, and invited people to comment to his office.

The move gives Scott a powerful amount of leverage over Florida legislative leaders supportive of SunRail — including House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

The contracts cover $39 million to be spent on cab cars, $17 million for diesel locomotives and $168 million owed to Archer Western for design and construction of the rail line slated to link downtown Orlando with Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties.

The contracts are considered “critical” by the state Department of Transportation, which is charged with getting the $1.2 billion project up and running.

SunRail supporters had hoped to begin construction by spring, but that date will be delayed until at least mid-summer by the move.

The move appeared to blindside some lawmakers. “These matters have been negotiated and executed,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a SunRail supporter trying to choose his words carefully. “And the time is now to move forward for the benefit of Central Florida.”

Scott’s decision comes just a week after he delivered the final blow to Florida’s $2.7 billion high-speed rail line planned to connect Orlando and Tampa.

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40 Responses to “More train hi-jinks: Scott puts brakes on SunRail”

  1. greg Says:

    Just one more step in Gov. Rick’s march to 700,000 new jobs.

  2. SheliaJoy Says:

    Boy this governor is puzzling to me. Scott kills projects that create jobs. Florida’ unemployment rate is at 12% but he cuts wants unemployment compensation cut.

    Scott promised 700K jobs. How? I guess the state workers can be maids and gardners for the rich friends/donors he gave tax breaks to.

  3. Howard Scott Pearlman Says:

    Perhaps Scoot for got to put the minus sign before the 700,00 jobs he promised !

    Scott really meant to say -700,000 jobs ! lol

  4. GT Says:

    Mr Alexander for one owns large amounts of land in Fl with others. Might this be the reason for his push? If these train deals were so good private investors would be already doing them.

  5. Sid Says:

    JOBS are funded by private investors seeking to make a profit. The “jobs” some of you are talking about are make- work projects funded by people who have jobs (taxpayers) and who should be allowed to keep the money they earn.
    It’s all those make-work “jobs” that gave us our $14 trillion debt.

  6. mona lisa Says:

    HAHA, JD!!! This has to be better than being indicted and prosecuted for manipulating Sun Rail. Eat it!

  7. More useless spending Says:

    I guess we’re no losing enough on Amtrack and TriRail..

    Now we get to have a SunRail money pit!

  8. JW Says:

    These are jobs even if they are temporary in nature (as all construction jobs technically are). However, they pass on valuable construction skills to those employees who then can take those to work on other construction jobs either in the private or the public sector.

    Furthermore, the SunRail system would improve the infrastructure of Greater Orlando and increase the mobility of labor throughout the region which is good for business.

    On a side note: the argument that “if it was profitable private investors would be doing it” is ludicrous. The federal government built the Interstate Highway System throughout the country in order to prepare the nation for a future that it readily embraced. There is no way on earth that we could’ve waited for a private company to deem it profitable to build highways and seen the level of development the US experienced in the second half of the 20th century.

  9. trustMC Says:

    Sid,

    First off, our debt was not created by work projects. That idea is beyond ludicrous. What gave us our debt were two unpaid for wars, and banks and Wall Street mistakes. Also, the lowering of the tax rate created less revenue, not to mention the welfare given to the military.

    What you should remember is that public workers are also tax payers and consumers of private goods and services. If they have no money, they can’t buy anything.

    Rick Scott is just another Republican Neanderthal who wants the unemployment to be high so Obama is not re-elected.

  10. RobLAL Says:

    “but he cuts wants unemployment compensation cut.Scott promised 700K jobs. How?”

    Think maybe if businesses didn’t have to pay 400% higher unemployment rates, so people can sit around watching Oprah for 99 weeks, they might be able to afford to hire people?

    “he federal government built the Interstate Highway System throughout the country in order to prepare the nation for a future that it readily embraced.”

    Ummmmm….the interstates were built for DEFENSE.

    “What gave us our debt were two unpaid for wars, and banks and Wall Street mistakes. Also, the lowering of the tax rate created less revenue, not to mention the welfare given to the military.”

    How do you have “unpaid for wars”? I mean, the libs tried several times to defund them. How do you defund something that’s “unpaid for”???? And if lowering the tax rate creates less revenue, how do you reckon the US Treasury had the highest revenues in history shortly AFTER the Bush tax cuts “for the rich”??? And just how did the deficit shrink from just over $400 billion to $162 billion, in two years, and the CBO projected an elimination of the deficit by 2010 if tax cuts create less revenue???

  11. Chuck Says:

    The Interstate Highway system was not built FOR defense. As one of the components of the National Highway System, Interstate highways are intended for use by the Defense Department to convoy troops and materiel in times of war (as are highways all over the world — see the German Autobahn system as an example). But to say that they were built FOR defense is a massive oversimplification to try to refute the OP’s point. This country would grind to a halt without the National Highway System, and particularly the Interstate Highway network.

  12. Chuck Says:

    And as for the Bush tax cuts: In the past 30 years (not counting the current administration for which there are no figures yet), the Clinton administration is the only administration that presided over a drop in the national debt as a percentage of GDP (just about -10% in eight years). In eight years, Reagan increased the national debt by well over 21%. Bush I increased it by 15% in just four years. Bush II increased it by over 27% in eight years. So much for cutting back spending … All these Republican administrations left us owing more and more and more in relation to what we produce. You have to go all the way back to the first Nixon administration to find a Republican whose term resulted in a drop in debt as a percentage of GDP — and a modest -3% at that. (And these days, Nixon wouldn’t qualify as a Republican …) Even Kennedy and Johnson, who were dealing with the Cold War, the Vietnam War and an ultra-expensive space race with the Soviets, managed to drop the debt by over 16%. (Must be because we actually produced stuff back then …)

    How do you have “unpaid-for wars”? The same way you have an “unpaid-for 60-inch flat panel TV”: You charge it. That’s where all this debt is coming from: We’re borrowing gazillions of dollars from China to “pay” for these wars. Which is why China gets away with everything it gets away with these days …

  13. R B Says:

    It appears that Gov Scott is working for big oil companies. Florida desperately needs high speed rail. When federal government is offering funds, why is he rejecting the funds? High rail will create thousands of permanent jobs in Florida.
    Scott is bad for Florida.

  14. scottrus Says:

    Well, it seems Mr. Scott has learned his lesson about taking gov’t money from his Texas experience with Columbia HCR. Check it out.

  15. Karen Karczmarki Says:

    Rick scott is the worse thing that has happened to Florida since we had those three hurricanes hitting our state in 2004. Who voted for him?, no one thst I have asked, of course I’m not a tea party person or a rich oligarch, that’s why, those are the ones that voted for him, or I would say bought him the election. I knew he has going to be bad since he was “elected”, but he is just coming so fast on all these changes that it seems to be worse than a devastating hurricane. I need to get out of this state soon.

  16. Deb Says:

    Why would a governor want to keep the people of their states at the mercy of ridiculous gas prices ??????? Hmmmmm?

  17. coastal Says:

    What I believe is going on in Florida, is also happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersery, and other states with a new Republican governor. They are all followinging the same template.

    1) They all ran on creating more jobs.
    2) Once in, they are not creating jobs, but giving huge sums of money to corporations in tax breaks.
    3) They are seizing power illegally.
    4) In Michigan, their House passed a bill where the governor can replace a local city governor with a corporation, if necessary, if the city is a financial disaster area (like Detroit).
    5) Ultimate goal: Turn America into a corporate monopoly.

  18. tweedle Says:

    Rick Scott, biggest crook in Medicare history, and the FLA teaple-republic party loves him. That is what you would expect from them though. The rest of the state is seeing just how evil this policies are, Buyers remorse has set in early in FLA.

  19. Thomas Joseph Says:

    I have read comments here and elsewhere supporting Rick Scott in his attack on rail-anything. I-95, I-75 and I-4 are not profitable private business projects.

    There for according to the logic of the great-Scott crowd these highways should never have been built.

    To suggest rail is a socialist make-work scheme is absurd. If you consider train a stupid useless invention lets take down the rest of rail and see what happens. Rail is important and will grow in importance as oil prices rise, no?

    Finally there is a knock against Amtrak usual to these supporters of Scott. Most developed nations have better rail than Amtrak for passengers. It saves their people money on transportation and is part of a diversified transport concept.

    The USA used to have a grand rail system now Amtrak is the remnant of this once comprehensive transport service. It was governmental decisions that put all our eggs in one basket, that of the automobile. But that my friends was in the era of 25 cents a gallon gasoline, now long gone.

    I am sorry to be so critical of the supporters of Rick Scott. But the ideas are what is important and none of them make sense if examined.

  20. Buddy Says:

    He’s a Kochboy.

  21. Ingrid Says:

    I am from Belgium, I have lived in Florida for 1 year and this government of Scott reminds me of Mussolini
    of Italy. Scott even looks a little like him.
    We have sold the house
    and we are going back to Europe, this place is only for the old and the stupid

  22. Anton Kreimer Says:

    I have followed the actions of Columbia HCA fora long time, needing hip replacements some years ago and made sure to have them performed in any hospital not affiliated with HCa because of their costcutting for profit only. For this reason I was aware of Mr. Scott as CEO of HCA having to refund the government 1.7 Billion in medicare overcharges. In my eyes that makes him a first rate crook but Floridians voted for him anyway and now they are stuck. I fully agree with the person from Belgium!

  23. JM Says:

    Scott used FaceBook to make his announcement? Sarah Palin uses FaceBook, too. A couple of cowards.

  24. Larry McCabbage Says:

    “How do you have “unpaid for wars”? I mean, the libs tried several times to defund them. How do you defund something that’s “unpaid for”????”

    Can I answer this one? Can I??

    Bush never put the wars into the budget. He used emergency funding bills to fund the war. Borrowing heavily to pay for them.

    Repubs talk about how big Obama’s budget is… but never discuss him paying for the Iraq and Afghan wars without emergency funding.

  25. Simian Nation Says:

    Sid Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    “It’s all those make-work “jobs” that gave us our $14 trillion debt”.

    And the two unpaid for wars were done for free?

  26. greg Says:

    RobLAL Says:”Think maybe if businesses didn’t have to pay 400% higher unemployment rates, so people can sit around watching Oprah for 99 weeks, they might be able to afford to hire people?”

    Duh, FL UC Fund only covers 26 weeks (soon to be 20). The rest is Federal.
    Maybe FL corps were underpaying for far too long.

  27. Nilsson Says:

    Lots of good comments made here.

    Just my opinion, but it does seem like the new Republican governors are following a similar playbook, the payoff being the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

    It’s as if they all got together asking themselves, how do we defeat Obama in ’12?

  28. Mark Says:

    You dont need a brain to conclude that the good far out weigh the bad anyway you look at this high speed rail project.

    The possibility for people like me and millions more to conduct business at a faster pace from one end of the state to another is endless.

    The skill others will get from constructing this project will last a life time and boost our educated workforce. Tourism traffic will increase within Florida… leading to more jobs and a stronger local economy. The list goes on…

    Fraudster Rick Scott is allowing his “Hatred” for President Obama to cloud his thinking, plain and simple. This is what it boils down to. This is a proposal by Obama when he came to florida make the high speed rail commitment. If this was a proposal from the previous president we would NOT be hear talking about project delays and threts to shutdown the project. GET Wise people! This guy Hate Obama!!

  29. Mark Says:

    Nilsson, YOU NAILED IT! Well Said!

  30. Lou Says:

    Well, Florida GOPers are consistent, I’ve give them that.

    Your congressional Republicans are working to make sure no one does anything to stop climate change.

    Your governor is making sure you don’t get any modern infrastructure investments.

    It’ll all be under water soon enough…Why fix it up?

    Pssst. Don’t move north. You voted for it–stay down there and take your medicine. You’ll soon be Alabama with flip-flops.

  31. BTR Says:

    For those that say “if thos is such a good idea why has the private sector not done it?” Do they feel the internet was a bad idea? Becasue our tax money help establish that. ALso is the Interstate HWY system bad?
    Maybe once we hit the floor we can wake up and move foward.

  32. RobLAL Says:

    @Lou “Your governor is making sure you don’t get any modern infrastructure investments.”

    BS, sir. He wanted to use the money for “modern infrastructure investments”. LaHood said that it was Bamtrak or nothing. Ergo, the money had NOTHING to do with helping Florida with “modern infrastructure investments”. Zip, Zero. Nada. However, it has everything to do with spending Porkulus money bribing Floridians to vote for Chairman Obama.

  33. RobLAL Says:

    Speaking of gross oversimplifications:

    “Do they feel the internet was a bad idea? Becasue our tax money help establish that.”

    Especially since private companies made it widely available. You’ll note that the government is not your ISP.

  34. Bob Eddy Says:

    I don’t understand how Florida elected this guy. It’s not as if he were “the lesser of two evils,” He was evil incarnated. You had a choice and you made a bad choice. A message to Mr Anderson: Don’t think this guy would hesitate putting your children in handcuffs to achieve his goals..whatever they are. You can be sure they are not to serve the people of Florida.

  35. nemo Says:

    I wonder how many posters will actually ride the new commuter train. I for one won’t. I can’t imagine too many people will. If one looks at the number of passengers on the other commuter line, Tri Rail, we see empty railcars. Is there even a market for this? I’d hate to see Fla. spend the money to build the line, and then have it not be used.

  36. highwire Says:

    GO SCOTT

  37. luvhim Says:

    He’s an idiot. Cong. Mica has worked close to 20 years to get this high speed rail and this bozo is undermining this plan. The rail system will be one of the best in the world and Scott is too short sighted to see it. Glad I didn’t vote for him and will elect the devil himself if he ran against him in 4 years.

  38. tri rail Says:

    You can’t comment about TriRail’s ridership. It was designed to be a temporary service back in the 90s when they were widening I95. It goes from nowhere to nowhere and isn’t well connected to downtown areas except barely to Miami. SunRail will actually go where people want to go and TriRail is getting better. They’re connecting it to Miami Airport and Downtown Miami by subway and building a lot of park and ride facilities. Cheap commuter rail (longest Tri-Rail trip is about $6) allows people who cannot afford cars to get to work, hold a job, and participate in our economy instead of sitting there and using the welfare system.

  39. Troopermom Says:

    Yes we can, without the approval, but with the co-operation of Rick Scott.We have 48,000 troops coming home at the first of the year.They need jobs too.Let the U.S.Army build and plan the rapid transit rail.They can cut the cost to the bone and still employ the Floridians.They built Allatoona Lakes which provides water for Atlanta. We also have an immigration problem, and they can help fix that too.Needless to mention the rich not paying their fair share of taxes.And the worst part about it is that they have gotten away with it for eight years.Let them tell the Army why they did not pay the taxes that everyone else did.Corperations will sell us out it has been their history.Why give them a chance to do it again, lets make this work.

  40. RobLAL Says:

    So even though the people of Florida voted no on HSR and Gov. Scott said no, Troopermom supports the federal government telling us where to burn and they’re gonna build it anyway. What, then, is the point in state elections and government if we have fascists in Washington who snub state’s rights “for the greater good”?

    Chairman Obama already has the Mussolini pose down pat. Might as well make the trains run on time too, eh?

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