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.

Wisconsin could suffer California’s high speed rail headaches

Legislation, Taxes

Chuck Devore, a candidate for U.S. Senate in California, is critical of the state’s planned $45 billion high speed rail project from Anaheim to San Francisco. The project will use $2.25 billion in stimulus funding.

California voters approved the high speed rail project, a bonding initiative, during November 2008 by a percentage of 52-48. Devore writes on the website Big Government that supporters promised less expensive travel that would save time. High speed rail, proponents claimed, would offer an alternative to high gas prices, reduce greenhouse gases, and would cost less than expanding freeways and airports.

You can guess what has happened since the November 2008 vote. Cost estimates are increasing with a one-way fare from Los Angeles to San Francisco jumping from $50 to $105. Devore writes, “The doubled cost to riders has tanked train ridership estimates by one-third.”

Estimates of ridership, according to Devore who cites a newspaper report, were based on public employees intentionally holding back final projections to help get the ballot project approved.

Devore adds paying back the bonds will be extremely costly.

If all this sounds familiar, it should.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee quickly approved spending $810 million of federal stimulus money for high speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison. The state will need an additional $7.6 million in operating expenses each year to cover the cost of the project. Bonding is being considered.

Specific figures about the cost of fares and ridership are unknown. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that only 55 permanent jobs will be created.

Devore concludes his piece on Big Government with this advice:

“As for the rest of America, look to California and take careful notice: incurring mountains of debt without the ability to reliably repay it comes at a high cost.  Out of control debt encumbers future generations with crushing repayment obligations – essentially subjecting America’s youth to taxation without representation while consigning them to a life with a lower standard of living than their parents and grandparents.”

We would be wise to pay attention. Wisconsin’s economy is not as horrendous as California’s. However, we are
in the ballpark.

Here is the latest about California high speed rail from the LA Times.

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