Friday, August 21, 2015

On train and casino, Walker poses still costing taxpayers millions

This week featured two more examples of how Scott Walker's "posing politics is the premier priority" doctrine continues to cost Wisconsin taxpayers big money. To start, let's go back to last year, and go over an excellent summary written by former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz about Walker's first big blunder as a statewide elected official - his steadfast refusal to proceed on a stimulus-funded high speed rail line which would have brought passenger rail between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and the Twin Cities. This resulted in the state losing $810 million dollars in federal stimulus funds, and by last year had ended up costing state and local taxpayers tens of millions to make up for it.
In 2009, then-Gov. Jim Doyle joined forces with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to convince train manufacturer Talgo to locate in Milwaukee. The city of Milwaukee invested $10 million for site improvements at the old Tower Automotive plant in a neighborhood that needed the jobs and the reinvestment. Wisconsin ordered two trains for the state-sponsored Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha service. In addition, Talgo had an order for two trains for use in Oregon and Washington that would also be built in Milwaukee....

A year later Barrett vied for the governor's office against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. The train plan was a centerpiece of Walker's campaign, in which he essentially ran against the interests of his own county. Walker portrayed the train as a boondoggle, but he was essentially using it as leverage to exploit resentment in the rest of the state against its two largest cities.

Walker won and trains lost. He quickly moved to kill the Milwaukee to Madison part of the project, but he claimed to support upgrades to the Hiawatha line. Meanwhile, Talgo was already well along in the construction of two sets of trains to serve that line. In fact, the state has already paid Talgo $40 million for those trains, and it paid another $12 million to other vendors, for a total cost so far of $52 million.
Flash ahead to this week, and we saw that Talgo and the State of Wisconsin finally settled a lawsuit Talgo slapped on the state for breach of contract, and lost revenues.
Under the agreement, Talgo will keep the two trains it built for the state of Wisconsin, and receive a $9.75 million payment from the state to close out the contract, said Lester Pines, attorney for Talgo. Talgo will attempt to sell the trains, and the state can collect a portion of the revenue from that sale to recoup up to $9.75 million, he said….

The disputes between Talgo and the state resulted in the two never changing hands. Talgo in May 2014 rolled the trains out of Milwaukee, ending the company’s operations in the city. They remain in storage in northern Indiana, Pines said. With the lawsuit cleared up, Talgo can now advance efforts to sell them, potentially to another state, for passenger service.

Wisconsin, under the settlement agreement, can collect up to 30 percent of the price of their sale, not counting any costs Talgo takes on to prepare the vehicles for sale and close the deal, Pines said. Depending on the final sale price, the state can collect up to $9.75 million, which represents its final payment owed to Talgo under the manufacturing contract.
So that brings the total price tag taxpayers have given as a result of Walker's pose to $62 million, and what did we end up with? NOTHING, including no commercial train service for the fastest-growing city in Madison that's filled with tens of thousands of non-driving college students (Madison), and the need for the state to pick up the tab for future rail upgrades, instead of using the new lines for freight as well as passenger rail.

We also found out this week about another example of the WisGOP crew’s “fiscal prudence,” and it included another higher-than-expected bill for the taxpayers.
The state paid the Michigan law firm of Dykema Gossett $2.2 million to advise the Walker administration on the Menominee tribe's application to open the off-reservation casino and for other legal work involving tribal casinos, according to figures released Wednesday in response to an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel....

The firm also represented the state during an arbitration hearing over language in the Potawatomi compact dealing with how the tribe would be reimbursed if it lost business to a new competitor, Boldrey said, noting that some of the fees were used to pay expert witnesses.

Dykema also used $473,808 of the cash it collected from Wisconsin to pay Nathan Associates, a California consulting firm that studied the economic impact of the proposed Menominee casino.

When Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch in December 2013 first said the administration would be hiring outside counsel, he said the contract would be capped at $500,000, although he noted that limit could be increased.
Funny how these consultant contracts always end up more than expected, doesn’t it? It literally pays to have connections in Fitzwalkerstan.

We the taxpayer shelled out for that, only to find all of that analysis took a back seat once Scott Walker decided to curry favor with fundies in Iowa and shoot down the casino anyway. So workers and taxpayers got next to nothing in return for this effort, other than more money taken out of their pockets and into the hands of a connected law firm and their connected consultants in California.

And these two examples are far from the only ones where Walker has thrown away taxpayer dollars on purely political motives. This includes having to give $1.1 million to the Wisconsin ACLU as the WisGOP Department of Justice tried to fight against marriage equality, more than $2 million to Michael, Best and Friedrich and other law firms for their secret, off-site redistricting work in 2011, and the hundreds of DOJ person-hours wasted from 2013 to 2015 on unconstituitional arrests of protestors in the State Capitol.

This is why it is insulting when you hear Walker and the Wisconsin GOP claim they don’t have the money to invest in education or local roads. The money is there, it’s just being thrown at other things as a result of this administration’s pig-headed desire to impose its power and ideology any chance that it can. And they've done it without regard to the very-predictable future costs and damages that results from these selfish, political actions.


  1. Last fall driving in high speed bumper to bumper traffic on I94 from Milwaukee to Madison for a Badger football game, I thought how relaxing a high speed train ride would have been compared to the 70 mph traffic crunch.

    1. And without spending $2.80 a gallon when there are surprise "maintenance shutdowns" at Midwest oil refineries.

      Having transportation option's is a good thing in the 21st Century

  2. When Walker was Milwaukee County Executive he gave the employees 26 furlough days per year. This exceeded the amount of furlough days that was in the union contract, a contract that Walker signed.

    The union and the workers protested, they said that Walker couldn't do that. Walker did it anyway. He was campaigning.

    The matter went to arbitration and the workers won.

    The matter went to court and the workers won.

    In the end the taxpayers in Milwaukee County had to pay $4.5 million for Walkers campain stunt.

    1. What I find amazing is the short-term memory of the average WisGOP. They only seem to care about one-day headlines and poses that work for talk radio the next day, but the overall results truly don't matter to these people.

      I just want to know why the average voter doesn't make them pay for the extra costs they are forced to pay as a result of this arrogant short-sightedness.

  3. Guess you forgot Jake how Doyle screwed over Super Steel, who the hell would do a no bid contract? Oh ya, same with the Potawatomi, cut a deal for campaign cash.

    1. 0 for 2 Jeffster. Super Steel couldn't give the product the state wanted, so Talgo was the only bidder.

      And the talking point on Potawatomi is absurd (especially whwn the compacts were redone to fill a budget hoke McCallum laid on Doyke''s desk) and it is a documented falsity that a Kenosha casino would have been a big hit to the state''s coffers.

      And none of those items excuse the stupid decisions Walker made, which have given the state ZERO and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

      Lay off the AM radio and OWN YOUR BOY'S FAILURE. 3/5 of the state already has, but I understand that it takes a bit longer for reality to seep through into bubble-world