Jan 6, 2012

Scott Walker's political payback: Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Sale

Wisconsin is for sale to highest contributor to Scott Walker

Scott Walker turns down nearly $1 billion in federal taxpayer money for Wisconsin to improve our rail system. So, OUR money goes to other states, and now Scott Walker rubber-stamps some deal to sell taxpayer railroad resources to a holding company out of Kansas?

This story floating under the radar involves the sale of Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR) to a Kansas outfit called Watco Holdings.

Five Wisconsin legislators seek delay in Watco's WSOR acquisition

By Progressive Railroading

On Dec. 29, five Wisconsin representatives filed a motion with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) seeking a 60-day extension to the effective date of Watco Cos. L.L.C.’s control of the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. (WSOR).

In November, Watco reached an agreement with WSOR to acquire controlling ownership of the 600-mile regional. Watco filed a change of control notice with the STB and expected to complete the transaction by 2011’s end.

Wisconsin Reps. Brett Hulsey, Louis Molepske, Kelda Helen Roys, Fred Clark and Terese Berceau are seeking a 60-day delay in the transaction (from Dec. 29) so state legislators and the public have more time to explore several issues. According to a joint press release issued by the legislators, the extra time could be used to determine whether:

• the sale would hurt local farmers, manufacturers and rail shippers;

• Watco executives are willing to work with state and local officials to improve freight-rail and restore passenger-rail service to many parts of Wisconsin;

• the state could help broker a better deal with a more open bidding process since taxpayers "have invested" more than $60 million in WSOR’s tracks; and

• the sale is a political payback for illegal campaign contributions WSOR officials have provided Gov. Scott Walker.

After CN (Canadian National Railway) acquired the Wisconsin Central Railroad Ltd. in 2001, central Wisconsin paper mills and northern Wisconsin forest product companies had less access to rail service, so “the public must fully understand how business practices and reliable access will change” in WSOR’s corridors due to the acquisition, said Rep. Molepske in the joint statement.

“This sale should be further reviewed to allow the public more time to understand how businesses that use this railroad will be affected by its sale, especially since the public has invested so many tax dollars by upgrading the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad infrastructure,” said Molepske.

Adds Rep. Berceau: “We need more freight train capacity to get products to market and get trucks off the road, and I want to make sure this sale will do that.”

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