TALLAHASSEE — An intense last-ditch effort to save high-speed rail in Florida collapsed Thursday with Gov. Rick Scott rejecting the plan, and then angry lawmakers accused him of overstepping authority and threatened legal action.
“I remain convinced that the construction cost overruns, the operating cost risk, the risk that we would give the money back if it’s ever shut down, is too much for the taxpayers of the state,” Scott told the Times/Herald.
The proposal to divert responsibility to a group of cities, including Tampa and Orlando, was presented to Scott’s office Wednesday. He saw nothing to change his mind — a stance critics attacked as politically motivated and profoundly stubborn.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson deemed it “one heck of a mistake.” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said she was “devastated” by the loss of potential jobs.
In Tallahassee, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said he hoped U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would grant Florida more time before reallocating the $2.4 billion to other states so lawmakers can explore challenging the governor on constitutional grounds. The deadline had been today and LaHood’s office showed no sign of backing away from that.
“I believe that he exceeded his executive authority and in a very strong sense we have a Constitutional crisis on our hands,” Altman said. Senate Republican leader Andy Gardiner acknowledged there are concerns about the “parameters” of the governor’s use of his executive power. He did not reject the possibility that a fellow caucus member would have a legitimate basis for suing the Republican governor. Altman noted that the Legislature voted to accept the federal money and build high-speed rail in a special session.
“We have a law on the books,” he said, and quoted the portion of the Florida Constitution that reads: “The Governor shall take care that the laws of Florida are faithfully executed.”
“The governor has completely ignored that,” Altman said.
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