Wisconsin Taxpayers Come Up Less Than Empty.
It’s hard to get ordinary folks involved with the issues facing government. They’re busy with their daily lives and the business of governance is complicated. So even when elected officials are making a genuine effort to do what’s best for the common good, taxpayers usually don’t take the time to understand what they did, let along why they did it.
For example, whenever the officials working on California’s high-speed rail project try to get serious discussions started, the opponents blow them off. “Just another damn gummint boondoggle,” they fume, as if that’s the end of it. Of course that’s not really an argument; it’s just a rant, but it seems to be enough for other anti-rail people. Further discussion is just a waste of breath for everyone.
Occasionally, however, there are exceptions when ordinary folks do start paying attention and when that happens, the politicians had better watch out. Take, for instance, the controversy that began a few years back in Wisconsin when the Spanish manufacturing company, Talgo, signed a contract with the State for a couple of train sets to be used for expanding and improving rail service between Milwaukee and Chicago. Then Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, also had a plan for a high speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, the state capital and home of the University of Wisconsin. As part of the deal, Talgo agreed to have a maintenance facility for the trainsets in Milwaukee and Governor Doyle planned to jump start everything with $810 million in stimulus money Wisconsin was to be getting from Washington.
But then Republican Scott Walker was elected governor. He cancelled the contract with Talgo and, because he had campaigned on a promise to kill the proposed high-speed train, the federal government took back the 810 million bucks. And, of course, Talgo filed suit against the Walker Administration.
Well, it appears that a settlement has been reached and — why are we not surprised? — it’s the Wisconsin taxpayers who are getting the very short end of the stick. Specifically, the State of Wisconsin will have to pay Talgo $50 million. Oh, yeah … and Talgo gets to keep the trains.
Apparently, however, this fiasco is proving to be an exception to the rule, because it seems that Wisconsin voters are paying attention: Scott Walker’s approval rating has fallen to 39 percent, the lowest it’s ever been.