Are California Democrats abandoning Gov. Brown’s beloved high-speed rail boondoggle?
posted at 8:41 pm on February 20, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
As even the New York Times noted just after the New Year, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet high-speed rail project is turning into something of a disaster, with its projected budget now surpassing $68 billion and its completion date ranging somewhere around 2029 — not to mention a number of judicial “setbacks” and a handful of polls that have suggested voters would shoot the project down if it were put up for another state ballot initiative. Despite the state’s calamitous fiscal outlook, Brown remains undeterred, determined to defend his high-speed baby through to the end — but he might be the only one. Via the WSJ:
The latest indication that Gavin Newsom wants to succeed fellow Democrat Jerry Brown as California’s governor is his public denunciation of the increasingly unpopular bullet train project, which Mr. Newsom once supported.
“I would take the dollars and redirect it to other, more pressing infrastructure needs, and I am not the only Democrat that feels this way,” said Mr. Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, in radio interview last week. And I’ve got to tell you, I am one of the few that just said it publicly.” …
“We don’t have the federal dollars that we were hoping for—only about $3 billion has come forward. The private sector hasn’t stepped up,” the lieutenant governor noted. …
The goal of Mr. Newsom’s ostensibly well-meaning criticism of the governor, then as now, is to present himself as the level-headed, honest guy in Sacramento. But the lieutenant governor, a rising star in the party, is also transparently aligning himself with public opinion.
Newsom might very well just be serving his best political interests here, but that doesn’t make him wrong. Even if California wasn’t facing a “wall of debt” and more unfunded pension liabilities than you can shake a stick at, the project was only ever going to be an overly expensive, unnecessary, and impractical hot mess. Let it go.