The Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that Gov. Rick Scott can reject $2.4 billion in federal money for high speed rail.

Scott refused the federal dollars saying he didn’t want the state left holding the bag if the project cost more than estimated.

“Our taxpayers aren’t going to take the risk of the cost overrun of building it,”  Scott said.

He estimates the project will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion. And if we examine the history of virtually every other government funded project in the history of humankind, it would be a pretty safe wager to bet that it would cost even more than that.

The governor received assurances from high speed rail advocates that private money will cover cost overruns. Yeah. Right. After the private entities that will benefit from the project receive a barrel full of tax write-offs, kickbacks and backroom deals to their further benefit.

How about this: if the private sector wants high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando so bad, it ponies up and funds the entire thing itself.

I can tell you exactly why that won’t happen. It’s a money loser. Certain sectors of the economy, businesses and individuals would certainly benefit from high speed rail, but those folks aren’t stupid. They know the project will never turn a real profit. It’s too risky to take on. So they lobby and beg the government to subsidize it. That way, they receive the benefit without assuming the risk.

Crony capitalism at its best.

So, good for Gov. Scott for rejecting the money. He recognizes that high speed rail, while probably a “good” idea  in some sense of the word good, isn’t the priority for his state right now. There exist other more pressing matters to deal with.

Scott’s move illustrates exactly what every state needs to do. Reject the carrot and stick routine the feds want to play. Federal funds always come at a price. Reject the carrot and you don’t have to worry about getting swatted with the stick.

Not that Scott is operating purely on principle. He wants federal money for ports.

But at least his stand against federal high speed rail funding proves that states can refuse to play the game.

Other states need to take note. Because we can never have a serious move toward reestablishing the proper balance of power between the state and federal governments until the states get their snouts out of the federal trough. Until they do, the feds will always hold the states under its thumb.

Mike Maharrey

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