Gov.-elect Mark Dayton was at his news event Thursday with Gov. Tim Pawlenty when he learned, via a reporter’s question, that the U.S. Department of Transportation had announced that it was going to take back more than $800 million from Wisconsin.
That money had been destined to be used for high-speed rail corridors in the state but is being re-routed because of Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s opposition to such projects.
Dayton was asked for his reaction — and we saw a bit of his personality in his response.
He tries hard to answer all questions. But, in this case, it was particularly difficult because he’d just, at the moment of the question, learned of the transportation department’s decision. It was stream-of-consciousness time.
Dayton started talking of all the Twin Cities-to-Chicago rail hopes. He mentioned Windom and Rochester and tossed in Duluth with rail hopes of its own.
He mentioned that getting federal transportation dollars to Minnesota would be much more difficult because of the defeat of 8th District Rep. Jim Oberstar, who head the House Transportation Committee.
He then started talking about his trips around the world and the remarkable rail systems he’s seen in China and Europe and how those places are far ahead of the United States.
He spoke of how if there were “bullet trains’’ between the major cities in the northeastern United States, they would relieve airport conjestion across the country.
His summation: “How far behind we are.’’
Meantime, in Wisconsin, outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle called the news “tragic’’ and said that Wisconsin now would move “to the back of the line’’ for future transportation dollars.
Walker was nonplussed.
“I mentioned this repeatedly in the campaign that if push came to shove, even if it [the federal money] went to another state, it was preferable to the taxpayers of the state being stuck with a bill that far exceeded our ability to pay,’’ Walker told reporters.