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A windfall for California

Editorial

The state benefits after Wisconsin and Ohio forgo billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds.

December 11, 2010

Outraged by excessive stimulus spending? Worried that construction of new infrastructure in your state will create operating costs lasting well into the future? If you're a Republican governor with such troubles on your mind, we have the solution: Send the federal money to California. The Golden State is more than willing to relieve you of the burden of all that free cash.

Remarkably, the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio seem to have taken us up on an offer so disadvantageous that the most shameless infomercial producer would hesitate to promote it. After being awarded a combined $1.2 billion in stimulus money to build rail projects — $810 million for a train from Milwaukee to Madison in Wisconsin and $385 million for a rail line linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland in Ohio — the governors turned it down. Instead, it will be distributed to train projects in 13 other states, with California being the biggest single beneficiary.

Why would they do such a thing? Because it would cost taxpayer money to operate the rail lines after they're built. Scott Walker, Republican governor-elect of Wisconsin, fretted that his state's train would cost $7.5 million a year to operate. As train supporters pointed out to the New York Times, this is sort of like turning down a free car because you don't want to have to pay for gasoline and insurance. Not only did Walker and Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich, also a Republican, ignore the construction jobs the projects would have created, but they ignored the positive impact on their states' economies, freeways and environment that the trains would have brought to future generations.

But that's perfectly OK with us, because California can use the money. Our state's future high-speed rail line from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento is already hitting snags, and we expect many more before the system is complete. The $624 million from Wisconsin and Ohio, combined with the $3 billion in federal funds the state has already received, will help smooth the way. Thanks a billion, cheeseheads.


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