One of my favorite libertarians, Patrick McEwen, makes a good point on the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on high-speed rail. It has nothing to do with spending, and everything to do with cars vs. trains -- whips vs. choo-choos.
...Walker's position is far and away the most ideologically similar to that of the Democrats. Basically, he is endorsing federal stimulus spending and government spending on infrastructure, but he just likes roads, and by extension cars, rather than rail and trains. Sounds like a really solid ideological difference to me. If you like driving cars, vote Republican. If you like riding on trains in addition to sometimes driving your car, vote Democrat.
In addition, Walker's position has always been misleading. For starters Walker is committing a deep violation of his anti-stimulus position by advocating that the funds stay here, rather than returning to the federal government to reduce the deficit.
Furthermore, he has presented the federal money allocated for the train to be a lump some of cash available for any worthy cause, including roads. But Wisconsin only received the money because it applied to be part of a regional high-speed rail network. It's not about the line from Madison to Milwaukee -- it's about a rail corridor from Chicago to the Twin Cities.
That $810 million does not inherently belong to Wisconsin taxpayers -- it belongs to all U.S. taxpayers. Frankly, if Wisconsin was entitled to it, why bother with roads? Why not pour it into the Lambeau Field expansion?
In the end, this issue has little to do with fiscal ideology and very much to do with cultural divisions. The train is yet another symptom of the Europeanization or New Yorkization of Wisconsin, according to Republicans. Having the federal government build our roads? Well, that's as American as Apple Pie.