MADISON (WKOW) - Should Wisconsin's Department of Transportation be able to give no-bid contracts for train service? Some Republican lawmakers say no, and they want a state law changed.
The controversy follows in the wake of a controversial no-bid contract to Spanish-based Talgo. The company got a $47.5 million deal to build high speed trains for Amtrak service within the state.
The trains will be built in a Talgo-owned factory in Milwaukee and create some 125 jobs, according to state officials.
State Rep. Brett Davis, (R) Oregon, a candidate for lieutenant governor, says no-bid contracts at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation must end. Davis has co-sponsored a bill that he says would end a "loophole" in state law.
In a statement Davis said, "It is unacceptable that Democrats in the State Legislature give preference to foreign companies then won't even hold a public hearing on this legislation."
The bill was introduced on March 2 and then referred to the committee on transportation. 27 News left messages for transportation Chairman John Steinbrink, (D) Pleasant Prairie, but we were not able to reach him and his office had no comment.
So why does the state have a no-bid loophole for trains in the first place? That goes back to 1997 when Republicans controlled the Assembly and the governor's mansion. The idea was to speed up the development of passenger rail service.
Scot Ross, who leads One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group, says some of the Republicans complaining about the Talgo contract voted for the law that permits it.
"Republicans are about 12 years late," he said. "They passed it, Tommy Thompson signed it."