Monday, February 28, 2011

Who can and who can't afford HSR. We can't.

Here's an editorial from The Messenger.  I think it's important that, even if you disagree with the messenger, you shouldn't shoot him or her, whether they bring us good or bad news, as in the cliche, "don't shoot the messenger!"  Actually, "The Messenger" is the Fort Dodge, Iowa newspaper.

In this case, The Messenger brings us a compelling but simple argument.  States are obliged to balance their budgets, and that includes California.  It hasn't done so for many years.  Our state is in debt and is running a deficit that puts it at the bottom of all the states.  It must not borrow more money. And, it should cut frivolous, self-indulgent projects like HSR out of the next budget. 

At the same time, the federal government is not obliged to run a balanced budget, but can sustain deficits and debts, and what the US has now is a "beauty!" The Messenger goes on to tell us that while Obama may feel perfectly free to keep borrowing (or printing) money for both good and bad expenditures -- and HSR sure is a bad one -- the states have no such leeway.

That's why these dollars from Washington for California  ("Here's some more, California, now that Florida doesn't want theirs for HSR.") are like free initial heroin shots to encourage our state's addiction to this dangerous HSR drug.

Congress should send a message
February 28, 2011

Federal pork-barrel spending has to involve the whitest of white elephants for governors to turn it down. But they do so occasionally, when it is clear to them that accepting money from Washington will put their states on the hook for enormous spending later.

That was the reason Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave for turning down a proposal that his state use $2.4 billion in federal money to construct a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.

Scott said cost overruns for the proposed train system could force Florida to find as much as $3 billion in state funds for it, if the $2.4 billion had been accepted. In addition, he pointed out ridership on the line might not cover operating costs, again forcing the state to provide subsidies.

Florida is not the first state to turn down money President Barack Obama wants to spend on high-speed rail service. Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich declined to accept $400 million for a high-speed train. Wisconsin's governor rejected a similar plan. Scott's concerns were the same as those in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Yet Obama wants to plow ahead with high-speed railroads. He has asked Congress to provide $53 billion for the project.

Obama's outlook is in contrast to that of some governors for a very obvious reason: States have to have balanced budgets. The federal government does not, so Obama can speed money Washington does not have freely.

That needs to stop. Congress should send a message to the president - immediately - by making it clear the president's $53 billion request is going nowhere but the scrap heap.