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Special Session Train Wreck

December 1st, 2009 by flanews

State lawmakers are attempting to accomplish in an eight day special session what they couldnt agree on in two previous 60 day session. The legislature will meet in Tallahassee Thursday to discuss expanding commuter rail in Florida. But as Whitney Ray tells us, without the votes going in, the special session could end in a train wreck.

Florida needs to get on the right track in order to convince the federal government to send money to expand commuter rail.

Lawmakers will meet in a special session to discuss a host of train issues; from who to blame in the event of an accident on the proposed SunRail project to funding for the existing TriRail system in South Florida.

Funding could come from the state gas tax or a tax on home sales which has seen increases over the past 14 months.

Transportation lobbyists say home sales could provide enough steam to keep the trains moving.

Over the course of the time period they are talking about this would be sufficient to help provide a stable funding source for TriRail and SunRail I believe, said Doug Callaway, the President of Floridians for Better Transportation.

Unions threaten to kill the rail system expansion, claiming the jobs it would create would be low paying and offer no benefits.

This is wrong and it should be stopped, said Mike Williams, the President of AFL-CIO.

Governor Charlie Crist says if lawmakers dont act fast the state will miss a shot at 2.5 billion federal dollars to expand the system.

If we can accomplish something before the end of the year we have a much better opportunity for the high speed rail component, said Crist.

Forcing the complex issue through the legislature may be hasty, but if Florida loses the federal funding for commuter rail thousands of jobs could be left at the station.

The special session is scheduled to start Thursday, but House Democrats are asking legislative leaders to wait until Monday because many members will be in Fort Lauderdale for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Legislature, Politics, State Budget, State News, Taxes, Transportation | No Comments »

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