Get past rail rhetoric to reality

2010-11-04T20:16:00Z Get past rail rhetoric to realityA Wisconsin State Journal editorial madison.com
November 04, 2010 8:16 pm  • 

Gov.-elect Scott Walker pledged to create new jobs in Wisconsin.

We're disappointed that the first people being hired for extra work are local attorneys to dream up legal arguments for stopping the high-speed train from Milwaukee to Madison.

The new governor - who railed in his campaign about the "boondoggle" that would bring $810 million in federal money for the rail project - said earlier this week "we have had lawyers coming out of the woodwork on options we can take ..." to stop the rail line, intended ultimately to link Chicago and Minneapolis.

It almost sounds like a classic joke: How many lawyers does it take to stop a train? (Answer: How many you got?)

Instead of huddling with large groups of attorneys, Walker should be looking for ways to gracefully veer from his campaign pledge and accept that it would be unwise - silly, really - for Wisconsin to reject nearly $1 billion in federal funds.

The first casualty, of course, would be the immediate loss of potentially thousands of jobs associated with the project. Longer term, the loss would be in image and perception of our state and its willingness, or lack thereof, to be a national player and a vital link along the commerce corridor between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

We endorsed Walker, a Republican, over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett because we thought the Milwaukee County executive was better suited to tackle the black hole that has become the state budget - something the train project barely affects. Walker also was more convincing in his call for a friendlier business climate.

Walker was the better pick for governor despite his disingenuous position that federal rail money could be used for roads and bridges instead.

We knew Walker would at least make a show of trying to stop the rail line. What we didn't expect was outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle to halt it for him.

The state Department of Transportation pulled workers from the rail project Thursday, at the urging of Doyle. It's puzzling why Doyle - who pushed through the final deal with federal officials just before the Nov. 2 election - would hit the pause button now. The move feels more like a political stunt intended to make Walker look bad than a rational decision.

Stunt or not, since Doyle has paused on his push, we urge the new governor to pause as well, and meet with interested parties of all types - not just lawyers - to review the rail project apart from the campaign rhetoric.

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