Gov. Scott's Lawyer Admits To Getting Crucial High-Speed Rail Fact Wrong

April 15, 2011 2:59 pm ET — Kate Conway

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott's (R-FL) unpopularity has soared since he was elected, as voters realize the shady business deals in his past might have been a pretty good indicator of his competence and trustworthiness. Since assuming the governorship, Scott has tampered with his state's protections for the most vulnerable, proposed to cut corporate and property taxes, and run into some more sticky ethical situations.

Perhaps most outrageously, Scott killed a high-speed rail project that enjoyed bipartisan support despite the fact that Florida taxpayers would have borne no financial responsibility — they would only have reaped the rewards of updated infrastructure. This prompted a lawsuit from two Florida state senators — a Democrat and a Republican — challenging Scott's right to axe the rail plan. But the Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott.

Yesterday, however, Scott's lawyer on the case admitted that he provided the court with inaccurate information. From the Palm Beach Post:

In a remarkable admission, Rick Scott's legal counsel Thursday told the Florida Supreme Court that he misled justices on the amount of money already spent on the  state's high-speed rail project - a key detail that may have helped cinch the governor's victory in a constitutional tug-of-war. [...]

In the letter, Trippe admitted he was wrong when he told justices that $110 million of the $130 million authorized by the Florida Legislature for the project approved in 2009 had already been spent.

Instead, Trippe said only $31 million had actually been spent - a major gap that appears to have shaped the court's decision that sided with Scott.

State Senator Thad Altman, the Republican who was one of the two lawmakers to bring the case, told Miami Herald blog Naked Politics "he believes the dollar figure was critical to the case."

"We were approaching the end of the fiscal year. And if he spent $110 million out of the $131 million, how do you allege he's not implementing the law? He spent a vast majority of the money," Altman said. "But if it's only $30 million, and there are only four months left in the fiscal year, it's a stronger case."

Unfortunately for Floridians, this isn't a mistake easily reversed. Florida's share of the high-speed rail money has already been returned to the federal government, and the budget deal struck between the White House and congressional Republicans reportedly included severe cuts to federal high-speed rail money that wasn't already committed to existing projects.