Issue Position: High Speed Rail

Issue Position

By:  Dennis Ross


With federal money, comes federal strings. I do not believe in high speed rail, paid for by the taxpayer. Therefore, I sincerely hope the Governor and the Legislature revisit the mechanism I helped create when we first created the high speed rail authority. It would create high speed rail, in a market fashion, without taxpayer money or taxpayer obligation.

Here is how it would work:

The State would authorize the issuance of revenue bonds. Private investors, individuals, etc would purchase the bonds and that money would finance the construction of the rail. Underwriters would insure the bonds so that there would be no taxpayer liability should the project slow, stop, of fail to succeed.

Once it was built, train operators would operate routes and charge market price and concessions operators would operate concessions at the terminals. Both train operators and concessions would pay rents, and those rents would be used to pay the bond holders. The State would have no liability for damages or negligence of rail operators, the State would have no financial stake in the operation of the train sets, and would have no stake in the concessions and who sold what.

The State of Florida would only initially issue bonds, but from the day it did through the day the bonds were paid off, State involvement would decrease every day until eventually it would be zero. The underwriters would not underwrite the bonds without solid evidence they could be paid back by the revenues and the underwriters would be on the hook for their repayment, not the taxpayer. In addition, the federal government would have no stake or say in how, when, or what was operated on the rails.

The free market will bring us new forms of transportation. If rail can survive on its own, then it will. We cannot, however, prop up an industry with tax dollars just because we want the market to support it. We did it with auto makers, insurance companies, banks, etc and look where that has gotten us. I believe transportation is an essential government function (one of the few, like defense and controlling our borders), but I also believe the best way to innovate is to get the government out of playing in the game, and keep it on the sideline as the referee.


* No taxpayer liability today, tomorrow, or in the future

* Private investors would purchase insured, State of Florida, revenue bonds to finance construction of the rail, and purchase of the right of way

* The revenues from operation of the trains and concessions would pay back the bonds

* Taxpayers would not be liable for repayment of the bonds

* Taxpayers would not be liable to negligence or other torts committed by the rail operators

* Taxpayers would not be obligated in any way to support high speed rail if it cannot survive on ridership and concessions

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