In two states where workers are desperate for jobs — Wisconsin, where the jobless rate is 9.4 percent, and Ohio, where it’s 9.9 percent — the incoming governors rejected $1.2 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail projects, which would have created tens of thousands of good jobs.
Republican Governors-elect Scott Walker (Wis.) and John Kasich (Ohio) have turned away hundreds of millions of dollars to build the rail lines and buy the made-in-America equipment because their states would have to share a few million dollars a year in operating costs.
That’s like turning down a free car because you have to pay for gas, said Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt.
“Walker’s rejection of the rail project is a clear indication that our elected leaders are putting political ideology above the needs of Wisconsin working families, since 15,000 family sustaining jobs were lost today, and the callous, short-sighted actions that cost our state so much will not soon be forgotten,” Neuenfeldt said in a statement.
Says AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward C. Wytkind wonders “if voters in Ohio and Wisconsin will feel buyers’ remorse when they learn that their governors want to kill 30,000 jobs.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation distributed the rejected funds to a dozen states with high-speed rail projects on the books or already under way. Those states are quite happy, too.
California will receive the bulk of the rejected money.
In an editorial, The Los Angles Times writes that not only did Walker and Kasich, “ignore the construction jobs the projects would have created, but they ignored the positive impact on their states’ economies, freeways and environment that the trains would have brought to future generations. But that’s perfectly OK with us, because California can use the money…. Thanks a billion, cheeseheads.”
Last month in Milwaukee, some 350 concerned citizens, representing a broad coalition of labor and community organizations, rallied in Milwaukee to protest Walker’s decision to stop construction on the project that was due to receive $810 million. Along with the rail project’s jobs, the vital commuter connection between Milwaukee and Madison would have spurred future economic development along the route.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that high-speed rail will modernize America’s valuable transportation network, “while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs. I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life.”
For more, see the AFL-CIO’s Website.
© 2010, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.