Thank you, Mr. Mica, for holding this hearing and Mr. Rahall, today on whether or not we should have more competition in the Northeast Corridor to private competition for the development of high-speed rail.
I, too, support the private sector involvement in passenger rail and believe there is a lot we can learn from the experience of the private sector, but I don't support cherry picking the best routes on our national system and turning them over to private companies. We need the operation of public transportation and we need to make sure that people that ride public transportation don't have to worry about the service, not some stockholder who's riding around in a limousine. That's the problem we're facing in healthcare. Insurance companies aren't concerned about all the care their customers get. They're concerned about how much money their stockholders make, and I can also add the oil industry to that.
I want to take this time to express my strong support for AMTRAK. Congress has micromanaged and financially starved them for most of their existence. We created AMTRAK because the freight rail couldn't make a profit and didn't want it on passenger rail. Yet we continue to hammer AMTRAK for not making enough money. And let me be clear—there is no form of transportation that pays for itself. None. The Bush Administration even went so far as to propose in fiscal 2006 budget to force AMTRAK to go into bankruptcy. We demand that they operate in the 21st century rail system and infrastructure built in the 1890s—defies logic.
Since we are discussing private sector involvement in rail today, I want to once again express my deep disappointment over Governor Rick Scott's decision to kill high-speed rail for the citizens of my home state of Florida. The high-speed rail planned for Florida served as a perfect example of a successful public/private partnership that would have created tens of thousands of jobs. The Florida DOT said as much as 48,000 and the private sector said an additional 10,000 or 15,000 jobs.
The high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando was going to be one of the most for high-speed rail in the country, and we had eight different consortiums that wanted to participate. Now we have to wait a little longer for having high-speed rail in Florida, but we will get there.
But that is why I am disappointed particular that the committee invited the Reason Foundation to testify, knowing that Governor Rick Scott made his decision based on their recommendation. If anyone thinks that asking the private sector to invest significant money and manpower to apply to operate a high-speed rail system and then cancel the project, we need to be clear that the private sector had invested millions getting ready for Florida. Millions. I met with someone yesterday, they talk about this is not the first time they've gone and invested dollars. They did it five years ago, and now once again. So if we're going to be a serious partner, we've got to find a way that whims of politics don't upset the public/private relationship.