Governor-elect should do the math on rail line

By Dan Bell in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Would you spend 21 cents a year to save nearly $117 million? What if it was $2.14? Would you spend that much? Read on, and we’ll see if you stay committed to that position.

Governor-elect Scott Walker’s position is to stop the high-speed rail project because he doesn’t want the people of Wisconsin to pay the $7.5 million in annual expenses (though it is possible Wisconsin’s cut of expenses could be as low as $750,000 if the feds pay 90%; now Walker is looking at another $100 million to pay back the feds).

He is looking out for our pocketbook. That is his commitment to us – good, I’m glad.

I can save a whole lot more than that and all of you can help me by telling Walker to build the high-speed rail line.

Governor-elect, to give yourself political coverage and look tough while doing it, you frame this as driving a hard bargain. Make the contractors fill the projected peak of 4,753 jobs from the unemployment rolls, and make them head-of-household hires. Here is what it would do for the state.

You can avoid paying the nearly $117 million in unemployment benefits (average check in 2009 was $286 – multiply that by 4,753 people times 86 weeks maximum). Now take the $7.5 million annual cost of the rail line divided by 3.5 million people between the ages of 18 to 65; your annual cost per person is $2.14 (or 21 cents if Wisconsin’s annual expense is $750,000).

What if all those hired had mortgages? Median home price is $112,000. If the monthly payment is $800, multiply by 12 months, times the number of jobs, times two years and you get over $91 million paid to our community banks – maybe enough to stop some branch closings. With no jobs as is your current path, the math is $112,000 times 4,753 homes, equals over $532 million in real estate that could be headed for foreclosure.

Stimulate the economy? Let’s say only 15% of these workers will require a new car to get to work. That’s 713 people, times, say, a modest $12,000 per car. The math comes out to over $8.5 million in lost sales. Let’s say each of the 4,753 has a spouse and one child. They go out once a week to eat off of the dollar menu (figure $4 per person); that’s not quite $6 million spent at local eateries over the two years. You get the idea.

The solution to breaking a popular campaign promise is by keeping bigger ones, i.e.: save money, reduce tax burden, stimulate the economy, create jobs – all while getting a start on those 250,000 jobs you promised.

Governor-elect Walker, “Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” Put away the party line for now; it will keep. There is plenty of anguish to address right now. Please think of your unemployed constituents. Use any wisdom you have. Remember, “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.” Are you listening, governor-elect?