The Obama administration has told Ohio’s next governor, Republican John Kasich, in the clearest language possible that the use-it-or-lose-it rule applies to the hundreds of millions of dollars in passenger rail money from the federal government.
If Kasich stands firm on his campaign promise to halt the development of a rail system linking Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton, the U.S. Department of Transportation will take back the $400 million.
And the money won’t be used to reduce the deficit, as the governor-elect has suggested, if Ohio is prohibited from spending the funds on other transportation projects, such as roads and bridges.
In a letter to Kasich, who takes office in January, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the money can only be used for high-speed rail.
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost his bid for a second four-year term, remains fully committed to the rail corridor and has rejected calls from his soon-to-be successor to halt the so-called 3-C project.
Instead, Strickland has not only made it clear that Ohio under his watch will not return the $400 million, but he is proceeding with a $25 million study.
“ … There is nothing to fear from obtaining the good information that this study will provide to policy makers in the near term as well as the long time,” the governor’s office argues in a statement. “So even if the governor-elect chooses not to support rail when he takes office, future governors or legislators with a vision for a modern Ohio will have better information as a result of this work.”
Given that the money spent on the study will not have to be refunded to the federal government if the project is ultimately scrapped, Strickland has acted in the best interest of the state.
There is a lot of conflicting information about the number of jobs that would be created, the number of passengers who would travel between the cities, the speed of the trains and the cost of operating and maintaining the system. It is to be hoped that the study provides answers to the myriad questions surrounding the 3-C rail plan.
The $400 million is part of the $810 million in high-speed rail grants awarded by the Obama administration under the economic stimulus program. The competition for the money was intense and many states were disappointed.
Now, however, with Kasich saying he will not accept the funds, New York, California and North Carolina are among the states ready to grab Ohio’s allocation.
Therein lies the problem with the position staked out by Kasich: Ohio’s loss will be some other state’s gain.
As the statement from Gov. Strickland’s office rightly put it, “If the governor-elect wants to return Ohio’s federal grant money and send 16,000 jobs to another state, that will be his decision to make when he becomes governor.”
We would hope that Kasich reassesses his position in light of the fact that some other state will be laughing all the way to the bank if Ohio turns down the $400 million.
Post Link: http://www.vindy.com/news/2010/nov/27/gov-elect-kasich-is-wrong-on-use-of-fede/