The Walker Conservation
During his first legislative session, Scott Walker proved to be the most anti-conservation Governor in Wisconsin’s history. From air to water and land to wildlife, Governor Walker left no stone unturned, desecrating the things that make Wisconsin a great place to live, play, and work. The Walker Conservation Failure Files detail his many conservation failures.
File II: Rail Fail
Wisconsin was this close to becoming a national leader in transportation technology, but Governor Walker decided to choose the road more traveled – the one lined with pot holes and traffic jams. With his rejection of $810 million of federal stimulus money, Walker sent the long anticipated high-speed rail, and its promise of jobs, packing.1
As Governor Walker was taking office, plans over 20 years in the making were in place to construct a high-speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison – a key component of a larger plan to connect Wisconsin to the biggest cities in the Midwest.2 This would have boosted economic activity in Madison and across the state, created jobs, and cut down on transportation costs for consumers. Instead, Governor Walker rejected the funds, allowing other more forward-thinking states to use it toward their own high-speed rail projects. If Wisconsin were actually open for business, why would Governor Walker throw 4,732 jobs out the window during his first week in office?
Walker has created jobs all right, but in thirteen states that aren’t Wisconsin. It was a great day for places like California, Florida, Washington, and Illinois when Walker took office. One gleeful L.A. Times editorial even read, "Thanks a billion, cheeseheads!"3 It’s no coincidence that the Milwaukee-based train manufacturing company, Talgo, Inc, has since announced plans to move out of Wisconsin this spring, taking 125 manufacturing jobs with it.4 Illinois is at the top of their list because Illinois' leaders have something Walker does not: a commitment to forward-thinking transit solutions and common sense. The state has now officially cancelled the $116 million maintenance contract with Talgo, who is now threatening legal action against the state.5 Talgo started sending layoff notices to Milwaukee employees in April 2012.6
Wisconsin pays the price for Walker's decision – beyond the job losses - every day:7
Walker's rejection of the high speed rail was a rejection of the needs of the Wisconsin people in favor of special interests. The rail could have been a convenient and affordable lifeline for the people of Wisconsin, especially those without access to a car or those who can't drive like the poor, elderly and disabled. Instead of investing in affordable transportation for the most vulnerable, Walker chose to invest taxpayer money in Wisconsin Southern and Road, a private agricultural railroad company whose President recently pleaded guilty to two felony counts for funneling illegal campaign contributions to Governor Walker.8
Other states nation-wide are falling all over themselves to become leaders in the new clean energy economy. They know that the clean energy economy is a train that has left the station. Unfortunately, Wisconsin's not on it. Governor Walker made sure of that.
Governor Walker's rejection of high-speed rail failed Wisconsin - our health, our natural resources, and our economy. It’s time to get Wisconsin back on track. Stay tuned for more from the Walker Conservation Failure Files.