Despite D.C. sales pitch, Gov. Scott remains cautious about high-speed rail
WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott emerged from a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with the same caution he has expressed before on high speed rail. "He's a believer," Scott told the Buzz. "I'm the one that's responsible to the taxpayers of Florida, though."
President Obama is making a hard push for rail, mentioning it in the State of the Union address for the second consecutive year, and a planned Orlando to Tampa line is a centerpiece of that effort. But Scott remains skeptical, even though the project will mostly be paid for with $2.4 billion in federal stimulus. Scott said today he is waiting on a ridership study, due in February.
Advocates think they have some sway over Scott due to his campaign promises to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. "I clearly care about jobs," Scott said, "but I also care about the taxpayers in the state and want to understand what risk we're taking. When you're the governor, you have to weigh all these issues."
Scott isn't against all federal funding.
He talked to LaHood about funding to ensure Florida's shipping ports are equipped for larger containers expected with the 2014 expansion of the Panama Canal.
LaHood's office refused to comment about the closed-door meeting. Scott left the meeting for another one with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He's sticking around Washington for TV interviews Saturday with Bloomberg and FOX News as well as lunch with noted conservative Grover Norquist. At night, he'll attend the 98th Annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.