GOP Governor Gives Rail Jobs the Boot

The newly-elected Republican governor of Wisconsin is under fire for canceling a regional rail project that could mean thousands of jobs and provide a high speed rail link between Milwaukee and Madison, WI.

Hundreds gathered this week at the Milwaukee plant of train maker Talgo Inc. to protest Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker’s decision to refuse $810 million in federal stimulus funding that would be used to construct the rail line.

The new line was expected to create about 125 jobs at Talgo, which manufactures high-speed cars and engines, along with thousands of ancillary positions up and down the line. Talgo officials have said they won’t stay in Wisconsin beyond 2012 if the state balks on its commitment to the project.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that canceling the project would cost more than 4,700 construction jobs, while other sources estimate as many as 9,500 permanent jobs are at stake.

“This is just not the time to be chasing jobs away,” declared Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

Walker claims he opposes the project because the state could get stuck paying the maintenance costs. He says he wants to use the money for other purposes or give it back.

The refusal by Walker triggered offers from Illinois officials to take the stimulus money, as well as a billboard near Walker’s Milwaukee-area home, with a picture of the governor-elect and a message: “Dear Scott Walker, Thanks for the money and jobs! Love, Illinois.”