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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Kevin Dayton

California High-Speed Rail: One-Way Ticket to Debt

On Monday, March 18, the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and an obscure entity known as the California High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee passed resolutions authorizing California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer to borrow $8.6 billion through bond sales to fund construction of the California High-Speed Rail.

This $8.6 billion adds to $480 million in bond sales authorized in 2009 and another $670 million in bond sales authorized in 2011. Some of this money will be used to build the first segment of the rail from Madera to Fresno.

Why is this happening? The people of California approved it.

In November 2008, 52.7% of voters (including 78% of voters in San Francisco) approved Proposition 1A, the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.” Proposition 1A authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion for design, environmental review, land acquisition, and construction by selling bonds to investors.

These bonds are “general obligation bonds” like the ones sold for school construction in California. This means the state can repay the bonds from any revenue source. They are not “revenue… Read More