Politics

In Killing Ohio’s High-Speed Rail Project, Kasich Eliminated Private-Sector Jobs He Promised To Create

Rather than acknowledge the number of jobs created or kept afloat by Democratic policies like the Recovery Act, Republicans insist that Democrats have done nothing to help create private-sector jobs. Future House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said, “Washington has kept the private sector in bust while manufacturing a boom for the public sector.”

Boehner’s bosom-buddy Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) beat a similar drum on the campaign trail. Touting his plan to help the private-sector “quickly help create jobs,” Kasich insisted he would help “improve the atmosphere in our state for real business development” by meeting “the needs of businesses to overcome” governmental “snafus.” But Kasich undermined his rhetoric by killing Ohio’s high-speed rail project. In doing so, he derailed many businesses’ economic development plans and effectively killed the private-sector jobs he promised to create, leaving one businessman to call his decision “unbelievable,” “mind-boggling,” and “naive”:

Locally, certain not to happen is construction of a $15 million facility planned for Columbus by US Railcar Co. The plant would have employed up to 200 when fully staffed, said Mike Pracht, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus-based railroad-car manufacturer.

“It’s unbelievable these states would send back $400 million and $800 million in free money,” Pracht said. “It’s mind-boggling.”

“The only thing I can compare it to is the interstate-highway program back in the ’60s. Where would Ohio be today if it opted out of the interstate highway system? To suggest passenger rail would be any different is naive.”

Pracht said that in addition to the jobs his company would have added, abandoning the rail plan negates millions of dollars in potential development that would have clustered around each rail station along the 258-mile route.

Pracht’s anger is legitimate. The Cleveland developer Forest City Enterprises was planning projects that would create $180 million of taxable property. Dayton, OH anticipated around $250 million worth of downtown development around the rail station and, in Columbus, OH, the rail line “was expected to spur business development” and “provide a link between Downtown and Port Columbus.” But, as Forest City’s spokesman put it, “Clearly, it won’t happen now. It’s a governmental decision.” A decision that has already cost Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) private-sector jobs as well.

But Kasich is “unrelenting” in his mission to overtly rebuke his campaign promises. While acknowledging that the train would create private-sector jobs, Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols scoffed Kasich wasn’t going to build a train that “will cost taxpayers.” A curious excuse given the fact that Kasich is perfectly willing to spend taxpayer money to “pay for security improvements” at his own private residence. Because Kasich is choosing to be “the first Ohio governor in a generation” to live in his private residence rather than in the already secured governor’s mansion, Ohioans will now pay for “around-the clock security at the Kasich home” as well as at the official residence.

Decisions like these help to explain the seven point drop in his approval rating before he’s even taken office. But rather than rethink high-speed rail and his other poor economic policies, Kasich is committed to driving the state into further economic disaster. As Nichols said, “We had the debate. The train is dead. The matter is closed.”