Gov. Scott still skeptical about high-speed rail

WASHINGTON -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott emerged from a meeting Friday afternoon with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with the same caution he has expressed before on high-speed rail.

“He’s a believer,” Scott said. “I’m the one that’s responsible to the taxpayers of Florida, though.”

President Barack Obama is making a hard push for rail, mentioning it in his State of the Union address this week, and a planned Orlando-to-Tampa line is a centerpiece of that effort.

But Scott remains skeptical, even though the project will mostly be paid for with $2.4 billion in federal stimulus money. Scott said he is waiting on a ridership study, due in February.

Advocates think they have some sway over Scott because of his campaign promise to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

“I clearly care about jobs,” Scott said, “but I also care about the taxpayers in the state and want to understand what risk we’re taking. When you’re the governor, you have to weigh all these issues.”

Scott isn’t against all federal funding.

He talked to LaHood about funding to ensure Florida’s shipping ports -- Port Manatee included -- are equipped for larger containers expected with the 2014 Panama Canal expansion.

Scott also met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He stuck around Washington for TV interviews later Friday with Bloomberg and Fox News.