When will Michigan leaders learn that federal money is expensive and always comes with strings attached? Gov. Rick Scott of Florida wisely told the Obama administration it could keep the rail funds, following suit with the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin who have turned down federal funds to build such projects. No such luck in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder, who seems eager to burnish his green credentials, held out his hand to accept federal stimulus dollars turned back by Florida.
The bulk of the $199 million federal grant is to be spent on upgrading tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo so that trains can travel a few miles per hour faster on limited stretches of the rail line that links Detroit to Chicago. Environmental groups and other rail advocates like to point to increased ridership on the line between Port Huron and Chicago. What they do not like to talk about is the approximately $7 million of Michigan taxpayer dollars that go to subsidize Amtrak so that tourists and business travelers can have the convenience of not having to drive their cars to Chicago. Without lavish taxpayer support, usage of rail in Michigan would decline due to the need for Amtrak to increase the price of tickets.
It seems the federal government is incapable of not spending money we do not have while miring the country further in debt and jeopardizing the economic future and freedom of it its citizens. Some governors have made courageous political decisions in turning down federal dollars for projects that do not pay their own way. Unfortunately our governor has not.