Wisconsin GOP Suffers Double Blow At The Ballot Box And Train Track

Bill Scher

Yesterday, Wisconsin Republicans failed to oust a sitting Democratic state senator in the first of nine recall elections slated for this summer.

While most of the recall elections targeting incumbent Republicans who support Gov. Walker’s anti-public worker law, Republicans forced three Democrats to face recalls too in hopes of minimizing the chances they will lose control of the state Senate. Republicans also forced the six Democratic challengers into primaries with Republican plants, but all the plants got crushed.

So far, the GOP attempt to douse the grassroots fire against Gov. Walker’s anti-worker crusade is 0-for-7. The momentum is with the Democrats three weeks before the six Aug. 9 recall elections targeting the GOP seats.

And today, a new development surfaced that could further spread anger at Gov. Walker’s right-wing agenda.

Maintaining Wisconsin’s current train service is going to cost taxpayers approximately $70 million more than what it would have cost if Gov. Walker hadn’t snubbed President Obama’s high-speed rail funding, according to new estimates from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The Legislature’s budget committee voted 12-2 Tuesday to spend $31.6 million in mostly borrowed state money on Amtrak’s Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line, costs that could have been paid largely by an $810 million federal grant that would have extended the Hiawatha to Madison.

But Tuesday’s vote doesn’t cover all the spending that will be needed to keep running the Hiawatha … State transportation officials have estimated they would need millions more for locomotives, signals and a new maintenance base…

And, like the spending approved Tuesday, all or most of those new costs would have been covered by the federal grant spurned by Gov. Scott Walker last year … Taken together, state taxpayers’ share of the Hiawatha capital costs that would have been covered by the federal grant could total as much as $99 million, significantly more than the $30 million they would have paid for 20 years of operating costs on the Milwaukee-to-Madison segment…

Walker had cited those operating costs as his main reason for opposing the 110-mph extension. Federal money would have paid all of its capital costs. And that doesn’t count the other potential benefits that high-speed rail supporters have cited from the Milwaukee-to-Madison line, such as jobs, economic development, expanded tax base and improved freight rail tracks.

In other words, Gov. Walker’s ideological agenda against high-speed rail, and partisan agenda against President Obama, is costing Wisconsin taxpayers about $70 million, while losing out on 5,000 jobs. What a deal!

Gov. Walker’s fight against public workers had already stirred up a broader backlash because many understood that they would be harmed whether they were a civil servant or not.

But the rail revelation is a direct attack on every Wisconsin taxpayers’ wallet. Wisconsin GOP, watch out.

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