WRAL has reported that North Carolina is poised to accept stimulus money for light rail service – complete with strings attached – without consulting the Legislature. The days of Democratic governors being able to rule with an iron fist and get away with whatever shady deals they want and oblige the state to spend money without consulting the peasants are over. And hopefully they will stay over. (And for the record, that scoundrel Jim Black should still be in jail for what he did and I hope that they jail Easley and it’s not looking too good for Bev either.)
The Republicans are absolutely right on this issue. The legislature controls the purse strings. The DOT, The Perdue Administration, and even Bev Perdue herself DO NOT have the authority to accept the strings that the Feds have put on that money (that the State of North Carolina will operate high speed rail). Only the General Assembly can commit North Carolina to those expenditures. And hopefully Governor Perdue will listen to the General Assembly and respect the division of powers in our governance.
And I should note, sadly, that once again WRAL is being less than impartial as you can see from the following video (I found the text of their article to be more fair).
The video opens – “One Step Foward, Two Steps Back”. As if the Republicans simply want to kill this wonderous new train plan. They go on to inform us that the spending is expected to create 4000 jobs (we are not, informed, however, if those are permanent jobs or temporary jobs to construct these rail tracks. Further – and most importantly, WRAL fails to mention what the Republicans are concerned with – who is going to pay for all of this once that stimulus money is gone.)
Further, they fail to question the assertions that high gas prices necessitate high speed rail. As if there are oodles of people looking to commute from Raleigh to Charlotte or Raleigh to Washington.
As a for instance, we learn this from NBC17.com:
Killian says the project would increase the tax burden on residents by using as much as $50 million per year in funding from the highway trust fund for the purpose of operating and maintaining the system.
“No one has really been able to give definitive answers and meet my concerns with respect to what the financial responsibility is on our citizens in the future. And as I understand it now, it ranges from anywhere from $8 to $50 million per year… Which in my opinion is a very poor use of those resources” Killian said.
And we learn this from Business Week:
Which, according to Google Maps, is about that it takes to drive.
Yet again, we are looking at another rail boondoggle. No discussion, none of these officials are able to articulate anything meaningful about why we should do it (other than “The Feds are paying, the Feds are paying!”). And by meaningful, I mean, “Here we have a study that shows that if we build a better rail link between Raleigh and Charlotte it will take x number of cars off the roads. We will have y number of riders every day. Operating costs will be Z, of which the state will have to pick up Q” The only estimate of the operating cost of this thing I got from the linked NBC17 article, which ranged from 8 to 50 million dollars. Surely SOMEBODY in the DOT can actually give an answer about what this is expected to cost the taxpayers of North Carolina over the long haul instead of telling us how wonderful it is to spend money on the railroad??
NCDOT Rail Director Patrick Simmons says although North Carolina will have to maintain the equipment and operate the trains, the long term investment is worthwhile, especially during tough economic times.
“The amount of responsibility for the state is very small in relation to creating 4-thousand new jobs and investing $545 million to benefit North Carolina… We are talking about investing in property that belongs to the people of North Carolina by putting those people to work, improving our property and helping move business and passengers on our trains,” Simmons said.
That just doesn’t cut it. You’re talking about putting in a burden that will recur, conceivably UNTIL THE END OF TIME for a benefit today? This short sightedness is how countries and states go bankrupt.