Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Powerful committee to consider spending stimulus money on rail

More than $822 million to establish a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison and to improve the line between Milwaukee and Chicago will be up for a vote Tuesday before the Joint Finance Committee (JFC).

Approval from the JFC would clear the way for work to start on the project, with a goal of a January 2013 completion date. 

Conservatives, including the GOP's leading gubernatorial candidates and Republican legislative leaders, have questioned the massive federal rail spending.

A Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo notes that upon completion, state funding will be required to cover at least a portion of the cost to operate the system:

“Although Amtrak has developed a preliminary estimate of this subsidy ($7.5 million, in addition to the current subsidy for the current Hiawatha service), the amount of the subsidies is unknown and would depend upon various factors, such as ticket prices and the development of other train service from the Chicago hub.”

The state award of $810 million for the Milwaukee-Madison line is about $7.6 million below what the state requested for the project. The Department of Transportation has indicated that the unfunded portion could be paid for with rail development bonds, which would also be subject to JFC approval, the memo notes.

Denial of the request would kill the project and the money would likely go to rail projects in other states, the LFB notes.

Tuesday's meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in room 412 EAST of the state Capitol.

See the LFB memos on the request.

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