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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

It's about SunRail. Or not. It's about jobs. Or not.



Much of the House's debate this morning about the proposed commuter rail legislation emphasized SunRail, the Central Florida commuter system that supporters are trying to get passed after two years of defeat.

But to hear Sen. Jeremy Ring tell it to fellow members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, the bill isn't about that at all.

"This simply demonstrates the state's committment to future passenger rail, without setting up any specific rail system," said Ring, D-Margate, the bill's sponsor. "All we're doing is trying to set up an infrastructure for future rail system ...whatever that may be."

Sen. Charlie Justice replied that if the bill is not about SunRail, why not strip out the entire section that sets aside $641 million to buy track for SunRail (if federal money for high-speed rail comes in?)

Ring replied that the language was put into the bill at the request of those of "SunRail opponents." But chief opponent Sen. Paula Dockery sure didn't ask for it. She opposes the SunRail spending, saying it's far too expensive.

Ring also said, after Sen. Eleanor Sobel asked about job creation, that the bill "doesn't actually talk about jobs," though they would be "a consequence of creating rail systems."

"I really want to just focus on the bill itself," Ring kept stressing.

Yet since the special session opened last week, lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist have repeated and repeated again the same mantra: "This is about creating new jobs." Crist said he will "take money from anyone" as long as it creates jobs.

So which is it, Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando wants to know.

"You've got one body saying one thing, and one body saying another," he said. "Where's the credibility? And you know, the state is being sued for not spending enough on education, and  they want to spend all this money on a choo-choo train."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:08pm]


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