Sanity: California lawmaker submits a plan to put high-speed rail back on the ballot

posted at 9:01 pm on January 13, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown released his headdesk-worthy budgetary plans for divvying up the first round of a planned state budget surplus, largely borne of the temporary tax hike voters elected to add via the ballot measure Proposition 30 in 2012: Namely, to use the ‘extra’ $4.2 billion in revenue to practically gloss over the state’s hundreds of billions in debt while growing their general-fund spending by more than eight percent. Part of that esteemed plan includes a provision to redirect some funds away from California’s cap-and-trade fund and into the high-speed rail boondoggle that Brown insists upon wearing as a political albatross around his neck — and only he knows why.

Fortunately, that little maneuver might be a bridge too far for some of California’s lawmakers, via the AP:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to redirect $250 million from California’s landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spend it instead on his beleaguered bullet train has renewed debate about the future of the contentious project.

In defending that part of the budget proposal he released this week, Brown pitched the $68 billion rail line as the perfect way to unite a fractured state and help California “pull together to form a greater community.”

His proposal does appear to be uniting many lawmakers and interest groups, but perhaps not in the way the governor intended. Some Democrats who have supported high-speed rail have joined their Republican colleagues in rejecting Brown’s funding idea, and environmental groups are lukewarm at best on it.

The Democrats are mostly upset about the additional high-speed rail funding only because they don’t want that money to be diverted from their greenhouse-gas goals, but one Republican lawmaker is making another bid to get the high-speed rail project put back on a ballot and put in front of voters, and perhaps that’s what it will take to garner some bipartisan support to finally call it quits while they’re still ahead. SacBee reports:

For the second time in less than two years, a California lawmaker has filed proposed ballot language to put the brakes on California’s high-speed rail project.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell submitted paperwork Friday to qualify the Stop the $100 Billion High Speed Rail and Reinvest in Education Act. The proposed November ballot measure is largely identical to the Stop the $100 Billion Bullet Train to Nowhere Act submitted by then-state Sen. Doug La Malfa and former Rep. George Radanovich in March 2012, which failed to qualify.

The high-speed rail opponents will need to gather just over 500,000 valid voter signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, but the tide could be turning against the project; a poll in September found that a majority of Californians have seen just about all they need to see and are ready to scrap the high-speed mess for which they once voted.


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