From the Orlando Sentinel:
Republican Sens. Alex Villalobos of Miami, Charlie Dean of Inverness, and Paula Dockery of Lakeland are joining with Democrats today to try and steer away millions of dollars intended to buy the 61-mile rail line from CSX Corp. for commuter rail.I blogged about Sen. Dockery's possible motivation to go after the Central Florida Commuter Rail Project last month:
The state portion of the funding deal was negotiated with CSX while Jeb Bush was still governor. This is the same Jeb Bush who led the charge to get the bullet train proposal repealed from the Florida Constitution. This is where the forces of ego enter. The main proponent of the bullet train initiative was C.C. "Doc" Dockery of Lakeland. Dockery is married to State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, an opponent of the Orlando commuter rail project and the CSX proposal.Sens. Alex Villalobos has his own reason enough to take a shot at the deal that Jeb did:
In Florida's meanest and most expensive state Senate race, Miami Sen. Alex Villalobos was reelected Tuesday night, overcoming the millions spent by third-party attack groups and the ire of Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped run a candidate against the moderate Republican.So while it may be great fun to help the Republicans eat their young, this was not a very good vehicle to ride. The indirect target of the forces of ego was the Central Florida Commuter Rail Project. Opponents have painted the deal as a giant corporate welfare boondoggle - an easy target in this tight budget year.
But the Central Florida Commuter Rail Project in reality is a desperately needed green transportation solution for the folks in Central Florida.
There is a lot of controversy over the Central Florida Commuter Rail Project. However, there should be no controversy whatsoever that commuter rail transit is a progressive idea.
First of all, rail transportation is actually a green industry. Even our going green Governor, Charlie Crist, gets it right on his Florida Performs scorecard when he says:
Florida is also committed to planning for the future and to conserving energy by promoting the use of public transportation.
As much fun as it is to help the Republicans tear themselves apart, it can't really be very good politics to let the Republicans get to the left of the Dems on the environment now, can it?
Rail transportation is 3 times more fuel efficient than motor vehicles. On top of the fuel efficiency advantage, the EPA and the rail transportation industry continue to work together on reducing emissions from trains. Compare this to the auto industry's ongoing efforts to fight the CAFE standards.
Speaking of autos, if we are ever going to get people out of their cars, we are going to have to give them viable public transit options. Commuter rail is just such an option.
Finally, Democrats rightfully criticized the Republicans for raiding the affordable housing and other trust funds in previous years to make up budget shortfalls. Progressives pretty much give up the moral high ground on that front teaming up with the forces of ego to rob the transportation trust fund. That's not a progressive idea.
The good news is that this budget amendment failed. But progressives need to stick to their progressive values. Commuter rail is a progressive idea whose time has long since come for Florida. Let's not blow this chance to get this commuter rail project done. If this doesn't happen, Washington may not fund another like it for a generation.