Soon after he was elected, Ohio Gov. John Kasich did something very smart for Buckeye State residents. He told federal officials the state did not want $385 million in "stimulus" money to start a so-called high-speed rail line.
Kasich recognized taking the money would have committed Ohio to spending it could not, and still cannot, afford, both for construction of the railroad and operation. The governor also noted the proposed train would take five hours to travel from Cleveland to Cincinnati. That is hardly high speed.
But Californians are eager to take the funds, and more, despite the fact Gov. Jerry Brown insists his state's $16 billion budget deficit cannot be eliminated without higher taxes. Unless voters approve them, school teachers will have to be laid off and public safety cutbacks will have to be made, Brown vows.
Yet he and liberal lawmakers are delighted at the prospect of spending billions more the state doesn't have to build a high-speed railroad linking Los Angeles and San Francisco.
State legislators voted last week to sell $4.5 billion in bonds to begin work on the rail line. That allows the state to get $3.2 billion in federal funds-including, incidentally, money once meant for Ohio.
The total, $7.7 billion, certainly sounds like it ought to fund an impressive high-speed rail project. Actually, no. The final cost of the line is estimated at $68 billion. No doubt, given the history of cost overruns on government projects, the bottom line will be far in excess of that.
Conservatives in California's legislature already have pointed out the state simply can't afford to spend the kind of money involved in the project. But Brown, liberal lawmakers-and President Barack Obama-have pushed hard to begin work.
More than $60 billion will be needed in addition to funds already committed to finish the rail line. Where will that money come from if-or, more likely, when-Californians tire of pouring their own cash into the project?
No doubt, using the same "too big to fail" claim that has been employed to waste hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars during the past few years, California politicians will seek a bailout from Washington.
This time, the answer should be "NO."