Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rubio straddles the middle on rail issue

TAMPA — As speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio voted for a similarly controversial SunRail commuter rail project and published a book of policy ideas touting investments in rail, highways and transit as huge job creators.

But now that he's a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Rubio won't give a clear answer on the biggest policy debate of the day: Should lawmakers approve the billion-dollar package of rail projects under debate in a special legislative session?

"Back then it made sense from an economic perspective. Now we're living in a much different time, so it's a new cost-benefit analysis,'' Rubio said Monday in Tampa when pressed to take a stance. "Everything is done in the context of the moments in which you're living."

It was the latest case of Rubio's public record as a legislator bumping awkwardly against his campaign persona as the true-blue conservative alternative to Gov. Charlie Crist, his rival for the GOP Senate nomination.

"While Marco Rubio hedges his bets on SunRail, Gov. Crist and the Florida Legislature are focused on creating much-needed jobs in Central Florida,'' said Andrea Saul, spokeswoman for the Crist campaign. "Florida deserves leaders who will fight to create jobs for Floridians, not those who will turn their backs during these challenging economic times."

The SunRail debate is particularly dicey for Rubio.

To come out firmly against the commuter rail project is to risk being accused of flip-flopping, after having supported a similar proposal two years earlier. And he could antagonize a host of business groups. In the Tampa Bay area alone, economic development groups pushing for support of rail funding include the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Bay Partnership, Westshore Alliance, Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, Pinellas Realtor Association, NAIOP Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Builders and the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

But to support the rail project as he did before would put Rubio on the same side as Crist — embracing a big government spending project and eagerly positioning Florida to grab billions more in federal stimulus money. Plus, some of the antitax "tea party" protesters backing Rubio's insurgent campaign are vocal opponents of these rail projects.

So Rubio is straddling the mushy middle. The rail projects may or may not be good for Florida in the current economic climate, he says, but Crist exaggerates how many jobs are likely to be created, and the state should avoid becoming too dependent on federal stimulus money.

Asked about the argument by gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, that the SunRail proposal — both in its current form and the earlier one supported by Rubio — is little more than a massive giveaway to the CSX rail corporation, the Miami Republican sidestepped.

"That's an issue with the individual company involved in the right of way,'' Rubio said. "My issue has always been about the rail component of it and the transportation. By and large as a transportation program, rail is a positive for Florida, but it has to meet a cost-benefit analysis that makes sense for our people."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at

Rubio straddles the middle on rail issue 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 7, 2009 9:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two in serious condition after early-morning shooting in Tampa


    Two people are in serious condition after a shooting occurred early Monday morning in Tampa, according to the Tampa Police Department.

  2. Wrong-way driver on Courtney Campbell Causeway intercepted by police, faces DUI charge

    Public Safety

    A woman driving in the wrong direction on the Courtney Campbell Causeway early Monday morning was intercepted by Tampa Police officers and faces a DUI charge.

  3. Relative 'devastated' after shooting kills 8 in Mississippi


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — Head in hands, his voice strained, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.

    Christianna May-Kelly, center, is supported by family members as she cries after answering reporters questions outside her parents' home in Brookhaven, Miss., Sunday. May-Kelly said her parents and mother were among the people gunned down during a shooting in rural Mississippi Saturday night. [AP photo]
  4. Forecast: Sunny, clear Memorial Day ahead of increased rain chances throughout the week


    If you're planning on heading outside today for Memorial Day activities, the weather shouldn't get in the way.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]