California: Hey, why aren't we using cap-and-trade taxes to finance this high-speed rail boondoggle?

Once upon a time, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration was blithely professing confidence that they wouldn’t need to hit up taxpaying Californians to continue financing his pet high-speed rail project beyond the initial $10 billion in bonds he asked for (not to mention a casual few billion in stimulus funds from the Obama administration), because private investors would almost assuredly come a’clamoring to drop major dollars in what he felt — and apparently still feels — is an amazingly practical and affordable transit project.

How’s that working out? Via the WSJ:

As envisioned, California’s $68 billion bullet-train system, the nation’s first, would take passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour. The project, though, has been beset by planning delays, fluctuating cost estimates and court challenges that have threatened to kill or delay it indefinitely.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed using one-third of funds raised annually through cap-and-trade auctions to help pay for high-speed rail. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has proposed using one-fifth of those funds. If some version of those proposals passes the Democrat-dominated legislature in coming months, the state says it will use the guaranteed funding to leverage various new sources of financing to quicken the pace of construction. …

The state’s cap-and-trade program, created in 2006, requires businesses that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide to purchase credits for excess pollution. ..

Opponents of the project argue the cap-and-trade dollars wouldn’t provide anywhere near the amount of money the project will require. “It sounds nice, but this is their only alternative,” said Michael Brady, an attorney representing plaintiffs challenging the train in court. “They have been cut off by the federal government…they have raised no money from private investors, and no local government has even put up a dime.”

The state legislative analyst’s office estimates that their cap-and-trade program could raise anywhere from $12 billion to $45 billion through 2020 (…which seems like kind of a suspiciously huge range for an 6-year period, no?), and they’d love to shave a little off to keep funding the deepening disaster that is destiny of this project — despite the multiple court battles in which it is currently tied up. Good idea, guys.