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Florida kills Obama-backed high-speed rail

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MIAMI — Florida’s governor on Wednesday killed an ambitious plan for the country’s first high-speed railway, a project heralded by the White House as important to restoring US competitiveness and economic growth.

Governor Rick Scott cited the burden to the state of potential cost overruns and expected subsidies in rejecting the $2.7 billion, 135-kilometer (84-mile) track link between Tampa and Orlando.

“After thoughtful consideration, Governor Rick Scott informed US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of the state’s decision to reject President (Barack) Obama’s Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail project,” Scott’s office said in a statement.

Scott was the third Republican governor to block a major high-speed rail project in the past three months by rejecting federal supporting funds, crucial to get plans off the ground.

Newly elected governors in Ohio and Wisconsin also canceled rail projects already agreed by their Democratic predecessors, saying the states could not afford the projects.

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Scott’s announcement came just two days after Obama released a proposed fiscal 2012 budget that highlighted the need to spend billions to develop high-speed railways in key corridors to sustain the country’s economic recovery and boost the competitiveness of the country’s infrastructure.

Republicans assailed the huge deficit in Obama’s budget, and Scott’s announcement attacked the White House for spending too much.

“The president?s budget includes $1.6 trillion in higher taxes,” he said.

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“Those higher taxes will impact Floridians and our competitiveness worldwide. We cannot expect individuals to build businesses in America if our taxes are higher than other countries,” he said.

The Florida move was the first concrete response to the White House announcement early this month of its $53 billion, six-year program to foster high-speed rail in key urban corridors.

Obama has said he wants to make high-speed rail available to 80 percent of Americans.

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On Wednesday the White House called Florida’s move “an unfortunate decision” and insisted that it would continue pushing infrastructure modernization.

“There’s been a lot of bipartisan support for the need to create the kind of modern infrastructure in this country that will enable us to compete. High-speed rail is very much a part of that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We will, you know, make sure that that money is used elsewhere to advance the infrastructure and innovation agenda that is essential for economic growth,” he said.

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Transportation Secretary LaHood said the administration was “extremely disappointed” by Scott’s move.

“We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses,” he said in a statement.

“This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida’s highways.”


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