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Rail trek: It’s dead, Jim

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Dec 2, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A

Rail trek: It’s dead, Jim

Walker, allies in Washington will kill high-speed rail

The train is dead. Long live the automobile! Despite the best efforts of a few die-hards, the proposed high-speed train (that doesn’t really travel at high speed) between Milwaukee and Madison is dead.

The train is as dead as a parrot in a Monty Python sketch. It’s as dead as a halibut clubbed by Sarah Palin on national television. It’s as dead as the guy wearing a red shirt on “Star Trek.” As Dr. McCoy would say, “It’s dead, Jim.”

Waukesha residents will not have to stop for one more train buzzing – OK, crawling – by and wonder where it is going. The train is not going anywhere.

Let’s look at the facts. Governor-elect Scott Walker campaigned against the train and even held a rally against the train when President Barack Obama came to campaign for Walker’s opponent.

If Walker were to flip now on the issue, it would be his “Harriet Miers moment.” His political base would believe if Walker won’t keep his word on this issue, he wouldn’t keep his word on anything. All support for the Walker reform agenda would evaporate.

Walker knows this. He came of political age just as the first President Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge. Walker watched the gradual disintegration of the Republican majorities in the Legislature after the failure of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. He knows what happens when a politician’s base loses heart. Walker understands that these symbolic issues are bigger than they appear.

Shortly after he took office, Walker was confronted with “The Blue Shirt” public art project at Mitchell International. Despite all the claims that the project was too far along to kill, the Blue Shirt was never built.

Even if Walker were to somehow have a “Star Trek” transporter accident and get replaced by an evil twin, the train will never be built.

In the House of Representatives, high-speed rail nationally has been put on the endangered species list. The Republicans taking positions of responsibility in the House of Representatives want to kill the train and save the federal taxpayer.

The new House Budget Committee chairman is Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan. Ryan is the author the “Roadmap for America’s Future,” not the “Railway to More Debt.” Ryan’s raison d’etre is bringing federal spending under control. He has joined with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and Congressman Tom Petri to propose a bill that would allow any state to return unused high-speed rail money to pay down the federal debt.

The new House Transportation Committee Chairman, John Mica, announced recently his intention to put the entire high-speed rail project under review, including the high-speed rail project in his home state of Florida.

The Republican ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis, has introduced a bill to pull back from the states any unspent federal stimulus money, mostly high-speed rail money, including from his home state of California.

Even the top Republican in the House, incoming Speaker John Boehner, is not likely to support high-speed rail after the newly elected Republican governor in his home state of Ohio vowed to kill the high-speed rail project there.

All of this is happening at the same time everyone in Washington is looking for spending to cut to deal with the out-of-control federal budget deficit and the national debt. Even President Obama has proposed freezing the pay of federal workers.

What’s next for Obama, selling off the remainder of the government’s shares in General Motors?

Democrats that were hoping they could somehow force the train down the throats of Wisconsin’s taxpayers were wrong, just as they were wrong for trying to defend the train during the last election cycle.

Gov. Jim Doyle saw what was going to happen to high-speed rail and he stopped the project before any train suppliers (i.e., Democratic contributors) got hurt when the project would certainly stop next year.

Doyle saw the coming demise of high-speed rail in Wisconsin. Now it’s time for Jim to tell his fellow Democrats, “It’s dead.” Maybe if Doyle did it in a gruff DeForest Kelley voice they would believe him.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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