Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guest Column From Representative John Adams: "Snail Rail Spending Ignores Ohio’s $8 Billion Deficit"

Recently, Ohio was handed a $400 million gift from the federal government—along with a whole host of attached strings that will skyrocket state spending and increase the tax burden on families and businesses.
In exchange for this loan, the big spenders in Columbus committed to resurrecting Ohio’s passenger rail network and keeping it in operation for 20 years. The catch? If the state fails to hold up its end of the bargain, the taxpayers will be forced to pay the money back to Washington.
The proposed 3-C rail is a costly plan with only marginally acceptable results. As proposed, it will connect Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, only traveling an average speed of 39 mph and taking 6.5 hours to move from Cleveland to Cincinnati—which is slower and costlier than highway travel. Additionally, this snail rail will cost about $29 million annually while the taxpayers will be required to supplement a $17 million subsidy. Which begs the question, does anyone believe that $17 million subsidy will actually come in as anticipated or higher? This ongoing subsidy over the next two decades will total a whopping $340 million burden that will be forced onto the backs of hardworking taxpayers and already-overwhelmed businesses.
Statistically, the average Ohioan will only ride the passenger rail once every 17 years! I believe that a major reason behind the low ridership expectations is the slow speed of the train; the faster the train will go, the more people are likely to ride it. However, to implement faster and more efficient rail system would mean updating hundreds of miles of tracks—which will cost too much in this economy.
Ohio is facing an $8 billion deficit in the next budget, largely due to the overuse of one-time money in our current budget that will no longer be available in the next budget. Is the path to job creation really to amp up spending projects with unstable money and increase the tax burden?
Instead of using federal funds to launch this pricy program, it would be wiser to invest this money in improvements to our primary modes of transportation—roads and highways. In fact, why not use available funds to fill the deficit or use it for the programs and services that took severe cuts in the budget, such as school funding or services for the elderly and disabled?
Common sense tells us that since passenger rail already failed in Ohio 40 years ago, it’s likely to fail again—especially with the rise of more efficient cars and interstates that rendered the trains archaic in the first place. Unfortunately, this time around, the taxpayers are locked into a two-decade contract of unaffordable spending to sustain it.
Forget free-market principles or the rise and fall of outdated industries! Here in Ohio, thanks to the taxpayers, this 3-C boondoggle is too big to fail, just like every other inefficient government program that enjoys constant influx of tax dollars to feed its bloat.