Florida High-Speed Rail: bi-partisan lawsuit argues Florida must take federal money

7:28 PM, Mar 1, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Two state senators have sued Gov. Rick Scott to force him to accept $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail in Florida.

Sen. Thad Altman, a Republican from Melbourne, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, filed the emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court this afternoon.

Scott announced two weeks ago that he would reject the money. He argued against federal deficit spending and said he doubted the ridership projections for the project. Further, he said the state could be responsible for billions of dollars in costs if the high-speed rail program failed.

Since Scott's announcement, supporters have tried to figure out a way to still make the project happen. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood extended a deadline for acceptance of the money in an effort to turn Scott around. That deadline ends Friday.

Altman and Joyner's petition says Scott acted outside of his power by rejecting the project passed by the Legislature in a December 2009 special session. That legislation created Florida Rail Enterprise as well as the means to raise money for operating the high-speed rail project.

More Florida high-speed rail coverage:
2/25/11 -
Florida given more time to accept federal money
2/24/11 - Gov. Scott stands firm against rail
2/21/11 -
Tampa rallies for, against high-speed rail
2/16/11 - Gov. Scott didn't wait for taxpayer-funded study
2/16/11 - Gov. Scott rejects federal High Speed Rail money
1/18/11 - Florida GOP, Dems lining up in support of HSR
1/11/11 - New report provides hope for HSR in Florida
12/10/10 - Federal funds roll in as other states reject rail
11/9/10 - Nelson, Iorio plead with Rick Scott to support high-speed rail
10/8/10 - Election Day could derail high-speed trains
7/19/10 - Work on high-speed rail lines begin along I-4

"In a letter dated February 16, 2011, Respondent took the unilateral action of attempting to reject the funds that had been appropriated by the Legislature and to be funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), even though the Legislature had passed the Florida Rail Act specifically directing the Florida Rail Enterprise to finance and construct a high speed rail system and had appropriated $130.8 million to implement the awards from the USDOT," the petition states.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican and candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, now opposes the project and supported Scott's decision after the governor announced it. However, Haridopolos voted in favor of high-speed rail in the 2009 special session. In recent weeks, Haridopolos has been adamant.

"No means no. Why is Washington working so hard to spend money it doesn't have?" Haridopolos said in a Feb. 25 statement following LaHood's extension of the deadline. "Instead of letting that money burn a hole in his pocket, Secretary LaHood should send it back to the federal treasury."

Paul Flemming, Florida Capital Bureau

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