Florida governor Rick Scott
Florida governor Rick Scott Reuters

The governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott said that he rejected $2-billion federal funding for a high-speed rail that would have linked Tampa to Orlando.

Florida is now the third large state, behind Wisconsin and Ohio, which has refused Federal cash for rail transportation projects.

I'm not comfortable this is a project we should be doing, Scott said at a news conference in Tallahassee after speaking by phone with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Scott explained that he doubted a high-speed railway would be worthwhile for taxpayers, adding the money would be better invested in highway and seaport upgrades.

The governor had earlier conferred with member of the Florida Tea Party who urged him not to accept the funding.

Scott cited three major reasons for rejecting the money:

“First capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion,” he stated.

“Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur,” he noted.

Third, he added, “if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.”

Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, criticized the Governor’s decision.

This is eating our seed corn, Nelson said. It's turning down 24,000 jobs, when we badly need them.

Similarly, U.S. Representative John Mica, a Republican representing Winter Park, Fla. and chairman the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, this is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development, and important tourism industry. I have urged the governor to reconsider going forward and allow the private sector to assume the risk and any future costs for the project. I made this appeal to the governor this morning. With the federal government assuming 90 percent of the cost of the project, I am disappointed the private sector will not have an opportunity to even offer innovative proposals to help finance the balance of the costs and to construct and operate this system.

The Obama administration has proposed spending $53 billion over the next six years on passenger trains and high-speed rail projects.