Talgo Train (copy) (copy)

A model of a high-speed train is seen outside of a 2009 press conference where then-Gov. Jim Doyle announced Wisconsin's partnership with the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo. Scott Walker nixed the plan shortly after taking office.

We were reminded of another costly Scott Walker-led blunder this week with news that the nation of Nigeria has purchased the Milwaukee-manufactured Talgo trains that were to have connected Madison with the national passenger rail network more than a decade ago.

The governor of Nigeria's Lagos state was in Milwaukee Tuesday to purchase the unused trains, which have been in storage since 2011, when Walker refused federal money to buy the trains and canceled the state's contract with the company that had been lured to Milwaukee by Walker's predecessor, Jim Doyle.

The trains are set to become part of West Africa's first operational metro system, the Nigerian officer told Milwaukee's acting mayor, Cavalier Johnson.

I've often written about the sad saga of Walker using the high-speed rail link to the state's capital city in a cynical political ploy to convince upstate voters that rail to Madison was unfair to them — even if the money wasn't coming from the state. Divide and conquer: Walker's modus operandi.

But Walker's foolhardy action did cost Wisconsin taxpayers, including those upstate, plenty. Not only did Wisconsin have to settle a lawsuit brought by Talgo for breech of contract for some $50 million, the state had to pay for several improvements along the Chicago to Milwaukee tracks that the feds would have paid for under its grant to Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Ald. Robert Bauman noted the irony.

"The partisanship got so deep that literally, Wisconsin is making decisions that amount to shooting yourself in both feet," he told WPR. "Who buys a set of train cars, refuses to complete the contract, ends up getting sued, settles, pays out another $50-some million in damages, and then you don't even get the cars?"

Well, small-minded politicians like Scott Walker do.

The train debacle was just a forerunner to other expensive foolishness — the Foxconn project in Racine County, for instance.

Republican legislators who went along with Walker's scheme point out that thanks to a carefully worded contract with the Taiwanese tech giant it won't cost the state anywhere near the $3 billion initially promised.

Tell that to the good folks in the town of Mount Pleasant, where the Foxconn development and its promised 13,000 jobs were to be located. They're on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure improvements, including a huge water utility system to bring in water from Lake Michigan that Foxconn needed for manufacturing giant video screens, a plan that has now been abandoned.

The lesson is that when Scott Walker comes offering his advice, run the other way.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@captimes.com, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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