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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Kevin Dayton

California High-Speed Rail’s Approval Rating Should Be 30%

In November 2008, 52.7% of California voters approved Proposition 1A, which authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion for the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century” by selling bonds to investors. Support has slipped since then.

A 2011 Field Poll and a 2012 USC/L.A. Times poll showed 59% of California voters would reject Proposition 1A if put back on the ballot. A 2013 Public Policy Institute of California poll indicates that 54% of likely voters outright “oppose” the high-speed rail project as it stands now.

Frankly, these polling results are astonishing. Why does a significant minority of Californians STILL support California High-Speed Rail after all of its financial and management fiascoes?

Well, there’s a sizeable group of Californians who regard high-speed rail as an evolutionary step toward enlightened collectivism. Another group recognizes it as an opportunity to make a lot of money off of taxpayers through its design, engineering, construction, or operation.

Their minds are made up. That leaves another group of California voters who still support high-speed rail but don’t have an… Read More

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