Instead, on Dec. 9, before either governor-elect assumed office, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that his department would redirect the $1.2 billion that would have gone to Wisconsin and Ohio to 14 other states. As the Weekly Standard's Stephen F. Hayes wrote, LaHood had sent the message "if you don't want to waste our money, we'll find someone who will."
California alone stands to gain up to $624 million of the forfeited stimulus funds -- on top of the more than $4.3 billion already earmarked for the planned high-speed rail project that would link San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim and eventually reach Sacramento and San Diego. California voters passed a $10 billion bond measure in 2008 to help fund the $43 billion project.
In November, the California High-Speed Rail Authority voted to approve the first segment of the project. It will start in the middle of nowhere (Borden) and go to nowhere (Corcoran). State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he fears the segment could turn into an "orphan" line, unusable by bullet trains.
Noting that an Obama official had announced that California would get an extra $715 million in the San Joaquin Valley congressional district of Democrat Jim Costa, just before Costa narrowly won re-election, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters quickly dubbed the segment the "train to nowhere."
In July, LaHood had proclaimed the Madison-Milwaukee project as unstoppable. "High-speed rail is coming to Wisconsin. There's no stopping it."
Walker wrote a letter to President Obama in which he protested, "It's outrageous for Secretary LaHood to suggest that your administration can force Wisconsin to continue building a train it doesn't want and cannot afford."
LaHood's Dec. 9 power play makes it official. It doesn't matter what voters want or whether they think their state can afford to take free federal money. As far as the Obama administration is concerned, federal transportation dollars are the Democrats' loose change.