California funds high-speed rail
A big day for a sustainable transportation system that has been controversial for the last four years since California voters passed a $10 billion bond in 2008 to start construction. I've been an advocate since the passage of the proposition. I see HSR as a great oppurtunity to build a sustainable rail network that can be powered by renewable energy and lead to a more resilient and prosperous California. Here is the article.
High-Speed Rail Squeaks Through State Senate
by David Siders
By a bare majority, the state Senate voted Friday to approve initial construction on California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, ending months of intense lobbying and uncertainty in the Legislature.
The approval was a major legislative victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, who lobbied lawmakers before the vote and celebrated with Democratic legislative leaders off the Senate floor immediately after.
The outcome was uncertain as recently as hours before the vote. With all 15 Republican senators opposing the measure and several Democratic lawmakers wavering, the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg scrambled to muster at least 21 of 25 Democratic votes.
Twenty-one Democratic senators voted "yes."
"This is one of the hardest votes that I've ever worked on," Steinberg said. "I think what we did today is going to be seen over many years, and many decades, as a turning point in California, a time when we decided to say 'yes' to hope, 'yes' to progress, 'yes' to the future."
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the Democratic governor "talked to a couple members" ahead of the vote, while Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, reminded colleagues that the project not only had Brown's attention, but also that of President Barack Obama and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
Steinberg said he knew just before the floor vote that four Democratic senators would oppose the bill.
"There was no room to spare," he said. "Had to get everybody else."
The bill, approved the previous day by the state Assembly, authorizes $5.8 billion to start construction in the Central Valley, including $2.6 billion in rail bond funds and $3.2 billion from the federal government.
Lawmakers tied that money to nearly $2 billion in funding to improve regional rail systems and connect them to high-speed rail. That regional focus was considered necessary to lobby hesitant senators about the project's potential significance to their districts.
"Members, this is a big vote," Steinberg said as he opened floor debate on the bill. "In the era ofterm limits, how many chances do we have to vote for something this important and long-lasting?"
Democratic senators said the project would create thousands of jobs and make necessary improvements to the state's transportation infrastructure. Republicans said it is too expensive and relies on uncertain future funding.
They criticized starting construction in the sparsely populated Central Valley.
Among Republicans in opposition was Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark, who criticized a willingness by the Legislature to reduce spending elsewhere while finding money for high-speed rail.
"I think this is a colossal fiscal train wreck for California," he said.
Sen. Joe Simitian, of Palo Alto, was one of the four Democrats to break ranks with his colleagues. Simitian said he supports the vision of high-speed rail, but not the current plan. He said there are "billions of reasons" to oppose it.
"We're not being asked to vote on a vision today," Simitian. "We're being asked to vote on a plan."
Brown was governor three decades ago, when the state first contemplated high-speed rail, and has championed it again in his third term. His support came despite the fact that public opinion of the project has soured since voters approved it in 2008.
"In 2008, California voters decided to create jobs and modernize our state's rail transportation system with a major investment in high-speed rail and key local projects in Northern and Southern California," Brown said in a prepared statement. "The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again."
Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, called unsuccessfully for the Legislature to put the project to another public vote. Following the floor session, he walked over to Steinberg and said, "Congrats, sir."
The vote could become problematic for Brown politically. Opponents of Brown's November ballot initiative to raise taxes already are planning to use the project as an example of spending they say is wasteful. A recent Field Poll suggests the message may resonate, and some Democrats said they feared its effect.
The rail authority had planned to start construction in the Central Valley by fall in order to meet a 2017 deadline for spending federal stimulus money. It is now likely to start building late this year or in early 2013.
The project still faces significant challenges, including ongoing litigation and fervent opposition from farmers in the Central Valley.
Last month, Brown proposed legislation designed to insulate the project from environmental lawsuits. Environmentalists protested, and Brown put the measure off. He suggested that the proposal to limit circumstances in which a court could block construction of the project could move forward later.
Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority board, said Thursday that legislative leaders made it clear they didn't like the idea of relaxing environmental review.
"Look, this is 21st century California, and we're trying to build something big," Richard said. "There's obviously going to be litigation, there'll be challenges. That's the nature of the society that we live in, and we'll deal with those as they come up."
California is broke. They will have to borrow or be given (which means someone else will have to borrow it) all the money to build this. At one point they were looking at building one of these in NJ but it was canceled. Turns out that in order to make it self sustaining we would have had to charge so much for tickets that only rich people would have been able to use it. Since we dd not have the money to build it and it would have required government subsidies forever to keep it running – it was canceled. Hopefully you have a better experience.
Yes we are spending more money THAT WE DONT HAVE.
Calif. is far past broke already so where will the money come from? Higher taxes- good luck with that.
I cease to be amazed that Calif. can continue these kinds of projects in spite of the reality of having overspent for decades. Reality cannot be overcome by politics.
I could almost see this as a stimulous project with decent multipliers for employment, if we were going to build the trains and the rails in America. I imagine we will just buy the parts from China, so most of the money will stimulate the Chinese economy. I also note that you hail from Fresno. Pork projects are ok as long as they benifit my area.
I don’t see how you could be a member of Peak Prosperity since November of 2011 and not realize that this rail system is economic insanity. California doesn’t have the money to build this thing and neither does the federal government so where does the money come from? China. Who benefits from the building of the rail line by manufacturing the components? China again. It’s no wonder this country and several states are bankrupt.
If we don’t start building electrified rail in this country it won’t really matter how much debt we have because we won’t be moving anywhere. I think Peak Prosperity is great, but it isn’t all just people that want to see the governement just sit by and do nothing. We need the governement to invest in rail right now. It’s vital for our transportation system. We should have started in the 70’s after the first oil shocks, be glad we are starting now. Yeah, we could settle for a system that doesn’t go high-speed, isn’t electrified, and will be subsidies forever. HSR is proven around the world and will be particularly useful in a liquid fuels crisis. Sorry to say this, but those who think the governement shouldn’t be using the remaining fossil fuel we have left to built that post-fossil fuel economy aren’t seeing the real challenges we have. Money is a human construct; oil, coal, gas, are not. So we better prepare for those things not being around and build something that can run without them. Today we have no such system, but high-speed rail is infrastucture that will last.
“I don’t see how you could be a member of Peak Prosperity since November of 2011 and not realize that this rail system is economic insanity. California doesn’t have the money to build this thing and neither does the federal government so where does the money come from? China. Who benefits from the building of the rail line by manufacturing the components? China again. It’s no wonder this country and several states are bankrupt.”
I agree. Keep in mind we are the Federal Govt. and why should citizens of other states subsidize California’s insanity? The money would likely come from Social Security btw the SS Fund is the largest holder of US Debt. no wonder the Fed. wants to bankrupt it …
So you think electrfied rail is a bad idea? Just more roads and runways? Or should we just not do anything? Let our transportation system crumble while we fund enormous entitlement programs for baby boomers. I’m not for that at all. If we are to cut, we cut the big four: Military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. We don’t stop investing in infrastructure.
I agree that we should have been investing in electrified rail, just not a bankrupt state borrowing money to build it. If you were bankrupt but just hadn’t filed yet, would it make sense for you to borrow money to buy a hybrid vehicle? Actually I don’t think anybody would lend us money if we were in the same financial condition as California but I have no doubt China will be glad to own $50,000,000,000 more of California. More than likely you’re selling your state down the river for something that is probably overhyped and won’t pay for itself.
At one point they were looking at building one of these in NJ but it was canceled. Turns out that in order to make it self sustaining we would have had to charge so much for tickets that only rich people would have been able to use it. Since we dd not have the money to build it and it would have required government subsidies forever to keep it running – it was canceled.
I wasn’t a great fan of Jimmy Carter but he did try to get this country to invest in things like electrified rail and no one would listen to him.
Our Interstate Highway’s are already funded through our gas taxes and America is whether you like it or not built accordingly. If you find a way to fund your electrified rail on your own that’s one thing but if you think people in Wisconsin for example should fund your electrified rail in Ca. that’s quite another. As for Social Security it’s only an “entitlement program” if you are using that term as in people are ENTITLED to get back the money they were forced to put in. Social Security is a SELF FUNDED program is not going broke contrary to what people claim and it is completely seperate from Medicare and Medicaid so let’s not confuse the issue.
Honestly I believe Social Security was unconstitutional to begin with but that train has already left the station. To do anything but pay back the money that was TAKEN would be outright theft. It is a debt just like any other in fact it is one owed to our OWN citizens and if you don’t like the borrowing you shouldn’t be proposing more for electrified rail because where do you think that money will come from? As I told you Social Security holds more debt then China!
I have no problems cutting programs let’s start with real Welfare programs that redistribute wealth from one to another. Foreign Aid tops my list. Since you don’t mind cutting Medicare and Medicaid let’s cut food stamps too! Hell yea let’s cut the Military by bringing home our troops, closing foreign bases and letting the other countries take care of themselves. We shouldn’t be the World’s policemen and we should keep our nose out of other people’s conflicts (most recent Libya comes to mind) and what the hell are we still doing in Afghanistan!
BTW I have news for you just because someone retires doesn’t mean they stop paying taxes. As I see it you don’t mind cutting programs for the elderly across America kind of amusing to me the whining about Medicare for baby boomer’s but yet you think those same people even the one’s who don’t live in CA. should fund your electrified rail when they were the very people who funded the infrastructure to begin with. Just wanted to point that out I have no problems cutting Medicare. As for Medicaid different program that’s for the poor sure let’s cut it and stop obamacare too while we’re at it that just redistributes our money to big pharma and the health insurance industry.