First it was Governor Chris Christie who turned down the federal government’s offer to partner in the building of a tuning connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. His logic was simple: New Jersey just could not afford the project. In typical government boondoggle fashion, what started out as a $5 billion project in 2005 and grew to $8.7 billion by 2008, was most recently priced at over $9 billion. In cancelling the project Christie said simply: “I can’t put taxpayers on a never-ending hook.” How refreshing!
Today Governor Rick Scott of Florida followed Christie’s lead announcing that he has rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail line proposed for his state. In rejecting the funds Scott said:” Government cannot spend more than it takes in. Government has become addicted to spending beyond its means and we cannot continue this flawed policy.” He concluded that: “The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits“. Scott, like many governors, is running a state with a huge deficit, about $4 billion for the current year. At a news conference Scott gave the following reasons for rejecting the rail project:
- Cost overruns for the project could cost Florida taxpayers an additional $3 billion.
- He didn’t trust the ridership and revenue projections supplied by the Feds.
- If the project had to be shut down after it was started, Florida would owe the federal government $2.4 billion.
These two governors are acting like CEOs instead of short-sighted politicians. Unlike the federal government that can print money, states must balance their budgets and that requires the type of tough decisions that Washington has refused to make in a long time.
How has the Washington politicians responded to the states rejections? Like a teenage boy whose offer for a date was spurned. After Christie turned the Feds down, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg announced that he and other tunnel proponents would try to circumvent the Governor’s decision. In Florida, its Senators Bill Nelson was more specific saying that he planned to press ahead with the project without Florida’s participation stating: “We are exploring … how we could keep this project going forward“. With typical Washington arrogance, Senators Lautenberg and Nelson would trample states rights to increase Washington’s power and control.
The federal governments use of cash handouts to states creates a dependent relationship between the two that is not dissimilar to the drug pusher and their addicts. Once the states become hooked on federal funds, they become beholding to Washington for even more funds and its unfunded mandates. With huge deficits, the states now have no choice but to go cold-turkey. We should expect more governors to follow the lead of Christie and Scott.