A year later, it turns out refusing $810 million from the federal government to overhaul Wisconsin’s rail was still a bad idea. The Legislature recently approved $31.6 million to be spent on the Amtrak line from Milwaukee to Chicago. That amount won’t cover all the necessary costs either, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that costs could balloon to $99 million. All of these costs would have been covered by the federal grant that was turned down last year by Gov. Scott Walker.
This is the consequence of putting politics first and the people last. See, it turns out the reason that Walker was so adamant about “stopping that boondoggle train to Madison” was because the GOP had decided the best thing they could do to win the election was to hate on Madison.
For people keeping score at home, that means Wisconsin lost out on an opportunity to fundamentally improve their transportation structure, alleviate the cost of rail repairs on Wisconsin taxpayers and create more than 2,000 construction jobs – all because Walker thought it would help win an election.
The argument that Walker was only doing it to save the Wisconsin taxpayer the operating costs didn’t hold up when they were presented last year, and they still don’t now. The Doyle administration had estimated operational costs would be about $1.5 million dollars a year. Compared with the costs being faced this year and the potential benefits, it was definitely a risk worth taking.
How giving more than $200 million in corporate tax breaks was a better bet for economic improvement than accepting the operational costs of a nearly billion dollar investment by the federal government is anyone’s guess. It seems someone failed to mention to Walker that the point of political office is to serve the people, not merely get elected to a bigger and better office.
The rejection of such a major federally-funded opportunity merely highlights the nature of GOP politics today: Win at any cost. It is a perfect example of why I spend every week trying to explain the latest power play, misleading statement, outright lie or accusation made by the Right. Sure, I know Democrats can come up with stupid ideas, and I know that they would like to be in charge too, but I rarely see the concerted, consistent effort to do anything to anyone to win.
This explains why Walker has consistently tried to pile it on to Madison when anything in his administration has gone wrong. During last winter’s protests, he essentially told the media a bunch of hippies in Madison couldn’t drown out the voices of the rest of the state who approved of his rejection of collective bargaining.
What value, I thought at the time, is there in trying to diminish the standing of the state’s capital city, a city that contains not only the flagship university but a wide diversity of Wisconsin citizens? Glad to know it was all because the GOP had decided to go after the city for political points.
So, after a year, it is clear that “Walker math” once again fails to add up for the state of Wisconsin. What a year it has been for this administration – more than a billion dollars in federal funding left on the table, job losses for the last four months and, of course, the dismantling of more than 50 years’ worth of labor relations. Not exactly the tidal wave of economic improvement Walker promised.
Not that it should come as much of a surprise. Walker won his election, and the GOP gained a full majority in the Legislature, so mission accomplished. Don’t worry about the little things, like actually helping Wisconsin. Instead, just keep adhering to the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and, “Just win, baby.”
John Waters (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in journalism.