Gov. Brown: Why no, a judge declaring that California's high-speed rail plans violate its own rules will not slow down the project

As Ed has meticulously pointed out over the last few years, California’s grandiose plans for a high-speed rail transportation system have portended little more than an expensive and impractical boondoggle from the get-go — but let that not deter progressive pipe dreams.


Last week, a judge noticed that the project has gotten out of control by violating the rules of the proposition originally approved by voters, skirting the required environmental clearances required for construction, and, oh yeah — not actually having any planned source of funding for anything beyond the proposed network’s first leg. From the WSJ:

Last Friday, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney ruled that California’s high-speed rail authority had violated the letter of the 2008 ballot initiative authorizing $10 billion in bonds for the 500-mile train’s construction. To wit, the authority didn’t identify funding sources for the $31 billion required to build the 290-mile “initial usable segment” from Madera to the San Fernando Valley. Nor did the authority obtain necessary environmental clearances.

“The Court concludes that the Authority abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of law,” wrote Judge Kenney, adding that the authority’s argument that it had complied with the law’s requirements was “unpersuasive.” The Judge didn’t go so far as to issue a writ of mandamus stopping the appropriation of state funds, though his ruling sets the ground for a writ after more hearings are held.


The judge is looking to have some more hearings on the matter before he issues a decision on what to do about it, but Gov. Jerry Brown is determined to not let such mundane details derail his plans.

Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that California’s high-speed rail project will not be stopped by a judge’s ruling that project officials failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved initial funding for the project in 2008.

“It’s not a setback,” Brown told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit.

He said the ruling “didn’t stop our spending, so we’re continuing. As we speak we’re spending money, we’re moving ahead.”

Here’s a tidbit from the ruling itself (h/t to Scott Shackford at Reason):

[T]he discussion of funding under existing federal programs such as the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program and Passenger Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 explicitly recognizes that both programs are funded through the annual federal General Fund appropriations process, and that “…the appropriations process makes the timing and amount of funding more uncertain [than programs funded through a dedicated trust fund] at best.” Thus, to “increase the potential” of actually obtaining funding through these programs, “…the Authority and other California officials will need to team with other states and high-speed rail stakeholders across the nation to promote high-speed rail as a program of national interest.”

This discussion makes it clear that funding from these sources cannot reasonably be expected to be available without significant further work and legislative advocacy, and that, in reality, there were no anticipated or expected commitments, authorizations, agreements, allocations, or other means of receiving such funds at the time the Authority approved the funding plan. …


And etcetera. In other words: How is it, exactly, that you intend to pay for this whole mess? ‘Cause I’m not seeing it.

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