Politics

U.S. Gives Gov. Scott More Time to Consider High-Speed Rail Plan

FILE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces his new budget during a Tea Party event in Eustis, Fla., on Feb. 7.

FILE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces his new budget during a Tea Party event in Eustis, Fla., on Feb. 7.  (AP)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A proposed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando in Florida has gotten another reprieve.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given Florida Gov. Rick Scott another week to reconsider his decision to turn down $2.4 billion in federal money for the project after the two met Friday in Washington, D.C.

LaHood said he gave Scott additional time after the governor asked for more information about a revised plan.

Scott refused the original federal offer because he was afraid the state would be stuck with billions in unexpected costs.

The governor also rejected the revised plan for absolving the state of financial or legal obligation by turning the project over to local governments, but now he'll take another look.

Last week, the Republican governor canceled plans for the state-managed project for those reasons and said he would return the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money. Federal officials then came up with a plan to turn the project over to local governments, but it still needed state approval. 

"We have repeatedly and clearly told Gov. Scott and his staff that Florida would not bear financial or legal liabilities," said Olivia Alair, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Transportation. "There is strong private sector interest in taking on the risk associated with building and operating high-speed rail in the state." 

Scott was elected in November on a campaign theme of "Let's Get to Work," and promised he would create 700,000 new jobs in Florida over a seven-year period. 

"High-speed rail is not a partisan issue," said Nelson, adding that Scott may be exceeding his constitutional authority and playing politics with the issue. "It is a way to fortify our state's transportation network and foster growth." 

Republicans nationally have been cool to President Obama's push for modernizing the country's rail system.