A Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor is vowing to refuse federal funding for a high-speed rail line if he's elected, claiming the proposed link between Milwaukee and Madison is not the jobs engine it's made out to be.
After Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited the state last month to release $47 million of the total $810 million in stimulus money designated for the project, Walker this week described the plan as a public works "boondoggle." He criticized the Obama administration for funding it and Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, also Milwaukee's mayor, for supporting it.
"I'd rather take that money and fix Wisconsin's crumbling roads and bridges," Walker said in his latest ad -- the spot is featured on his campaign website devoted to criticizing the project, NoTrain.com. Walker also released a public letter of opposition to Obama, timed with Obama's visit Monday to Wisconsin where he hit the stump on Barrett's behalf.
"Releasing these federal funds now is both premature and irresponsible," Walker wrote, citing recent polling that showed support for the project among Milwaukee area residents at 41 percent. "I am drawing a line in the sand Mr. President: No matter how much money you and Governor Doyle try to spend before the end of the year, I will put a stop to this boondoggle the day I take office."
Former Rep. Mark Neumann, who is also running for the GOP nomination, has criticized the project as well.
Walker, who cultivates an image of frugality by driving a used Saturn and taking brown-bag lunches to work, said Wisconsin taxpayers will be saddled with "outrageous" operating costs and said the number of jobs created will be in the dozens -- not thousands, as Barrett projects.
But Barrett's campaign slammed Walker as "disingenuous" on several fronts.
First, spokesman Phil Walzak noted that the money was designated for the rail project and no other purpose. The alternative, he said, would be to send the money away for a transit project in another state.
Walzak also said Walker was focusing on the direct jobs, like those for conductors, that are expected to be created. He said far more indirect jobs would be created by businesses that sprout along the train's route.
Barrett's campaign describes the rail line as an "economic corridor" and part of a larger link between Chicago and the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
"Thank God Scott Walker wasn't around when President Eisenhower was building the interstate system because he, by the same logic, would have turned down freeways in Wisconsin," Walzak told FoxNews.com.
The White House, meanwhile, defended the rail project Monday.
Asked about Walker's comments, White House spokesman Bill Burton said the dispute is demonstrative of the choice this November between "our vision of continued growth and moving in the right direction on the economy versus attempts to stop economic progress."
"I'm not an expert on transportation issues in Chicago and Madison. But I do think that these grants -- the investments that we've made on renewable energy, on infrastructure -- are helping to make our economy stronger and are helping to create an environment where jobs are being created and people getting back to work," Burton said.