Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nugent gives Scott kudos for rejecting rail plan

BROOKSVILLE — As state and federal officials scramble to find a way to bring $2.4 billion to Florida for high speed rail, they aren't getting help from U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent.

Gov. Rick Scott did the right thing this week by saying no thanks to the money that would have paid for a rail line between Tampa and Orlando, Nugent said.

The Spring Hill Republican agreed with Scott's reasoning that the project is too costly for cash-strapped state and federal governments. And, like Scott, Nugent took a shot at President Obama, who considered Florida's rail project the flagship of a $53 billion nationwide rail network.

"The fact of the matter is that the federal government is spending money it doesn't have," Nugent said in a statement Thursday. "The president's goal … is the epitome of 'it would be nice to have' spending. We're running a $1.7 trillion deficit. When we can't afford our basic obligations, we certainly don't have tens of billions in extra money for 'nice to have' projects."

In that context, Nugent said, Scott's decision "is clearly a necessary and responsible choice."

"I just hope that the money is used to pay down part of our $14 trillion national debt," said Nugent, whose sprawling district includes all of Hernando County and the central and eastern portions of Pasco County.

Nugent couldn't be reached for followup questions Friday.

It's unlikely the money would go toward the national debt or any other purpose. The funding has already been committed to high speed rail, and lawmakers from New York and California have asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to give those dollars to their states.

"If (Nugent) can convince his colleagues to use that money to pay down the debt, then more power to him," State Sen. Mike Fasano said. "But guess what? That's not going to happen."

Scott predicted construction cost overruns would cost Florida $3 billion, and that low ridership would have required state subsidies. But he drew criticism from members of both major parties for his decision to derail a bipartisan project that has been decades in the making.

The rail line would have skirted the southern edge of the Nugent's district, which includes a swath of Polk County immediately north of Interstate 4. A stop also was planned for Polk. That would likely have meant the district enjoying a share of thousands of construction jobs and a piece of any economic development the line would create.

Nugent's stance puts him at odds with fellow Republicans at every level of government, including three of four lawmakers in Hernando County's state delegation.

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, called Scott's move disappointing, saying he should have waited for private consortiums to bid on the project.

Seven teams were planning to bid on the project representing companies from 11 different countries, all experts in building and operating high speed rail systems, Dockery said. The groups had agreed to design, build, operate and maintain the rail system for a fixed price, with no cost overruns and no subsidies.

"It was my hope and expectation that the governor would have allowed these teams to submit proposals before pulling the plug on this true public/private partnership that had little risk to the state and tremendous return to Floridians," Dockery said in a statement Wednesday.

On Thursday, Dockery, one of Scott's first Senate supporters, co-authored a letter urging LaHood to give the money to Florida anyway.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, also supported Scott's candidacy. Echoing other officials, Fasano said the governor should have at least waited for the Florida Department of Transportation to finish a ridership study.

"I believe this was a great opportunity for us to create thousands of jobs for years to come," Fasano said.

Rejecting the money is essentially handing back what is owed to the state, he said.

"For every dollar Florida citizens send to Washington, we get about 88 cents back for transportation projects," Fasano said. "That $2.4 billion, in my opinion, is a drop in the bucket compared to what the federal government owes the state of Florida."

State Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, said he wasn't upset by Scott's move.

"I don't have a tremendous amount of grief over what the governor did," Schenck said. "I certainly understand his reasoning."

But even Schenck agreed Scott should have waited to evaluate the bids for the project.

State Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, said he supports rail but said no public money at all should be spent for it.

"It's got to be private industry," Smith said. He said he's hopeful Congress will spend the funds elsewhere.

Nugent is one of dozens of vocal House freshmen who have taken a hard-line stance on the federal budget. He is among the most fiscally conservative members continuing to push GOP leaders to fulfill the party's Pledge to America promise to cut $100 billion from the current year's federal budget despite having just seven months to do it.

The federal government is now operating under a temporary measure that has kept funding at last year's levels.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or

Nugent gives Scott kudos for rejecting rail plan 02/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 8:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official


    Here is the release from the team ...


  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]