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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Budget committee votes to spend $31.6 million on rail service

From an article by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Madison - The Legislature's budget committee voted 12-2 Tuesday to spend $31.6 million on the Milwaukee-to-Chicago passenger rail service, costs that could have largely been paid by a federal grant that would have extended passenger rail from Milwaukee to Madison.

The Joint Finance Committee voted unanimously to shift $33 million within the transportation fund to cover higher than expected winter maintenance costs.

Democrats backed the passenger rail measure. But they pointed to an estimate from the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office that found that at least $22.4 million of the additional costs stem from Republican Gov. Scott Walker's move to cancel an $810 million high-speed rail line connecting Madison to Milwaukee and Chicago.

All Republicans except Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) also backed the measure but countered that the federal government could have still paid for part of the costs and that part of the bills also stem from a questionable contract entered into by Walker's predecessor, Democratic former Gov. Jim Doyle.

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) called the canceled contract an example of "Walker math" that is costly for the state.

"We had an opportunity to take advantage of federal funding in one of the tightest budgets in years," Taylor said.

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