Walker Wants High Speed Rail Money Returned

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  • Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker opposes federal rail money. Video by wtmj.com

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MILWAUKEE - The federal government is giving the state of Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars for a high speed rail system but Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker believes the state should return that money.

"It's kind of like when you're winning a sports car in a raffle. If you don't have the money to pay the insurance what good is it to have the great brand new sports car," said Walker.

Last month, the Obama Administration awarded the state $823 million for the rail line that would link Milwaukee to Madison and beyond.

But Walker, who's running for governor as a Republican, wonders if the state can afford it after construction is completed.

"Anyone who is being intellectually honest has to acknowledge the cost of operating is a legitimate question to raise."

If Walker is in the Governor's office, he says he would turn down those federal funds. He says he would support the rail line if it was self-sustaining.

Democrats disagree.

"This is tremendous economic opportunity for this state," said Adam Collins, spokesperson for Governor Jim Doyle.

Collins claims the rail line would provide thousands of jobs.

While not giving specifics, Collins believes the state could afford to maintain the rail line, saying Walker's questions are more about politics than what would help people.

"Trying to insert petty politics into a project like this that stands to have major economic gains for this state for generations is short sighted," he said.

But former Congressman Mark Neumann isn't convinced high speed rail will create jobs. He too is running for governor as a Republican.

If he were in the state's top job, he says he would renegotiate the $823 million and give it back to the taxpayers in forms of tax breaks.

He doesn't believe people will use the high speed rail system.

"We're spending money to build something we're not going to use," said Neumann.

Graeme Zielinski with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin disputes that claim. He says demand for the Hiawatha Amtrak route has increased the last several years.

Zielinski says Walker is turning down jobs by turning away from high speed rail.

"It's unconscionable to turn down jobs in this economy," Zielinski said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was not available for comment. He is running for governor as a Democrat.