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Katy Grimes

Gov. Brown’s Farcical High Speed Train to… Bakersfield

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to give the Legislature more oversight over the California Air Resources Board. Some say lawmakers then retributively amended language out of Senate Bill 350 by Sen. Pres. Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, which was Brown’s proposal for a 50 percent cut in petroleum use for transportation that the CARB was all set to enforce.

The CARB holds cap-and-trade auctions, which extort and extract money from California businesses deemed polluters by the state. In his 2016 budget, Gov. Brown carved out more than $1 billion of cap-and-trade revenue to pay for his High Speed Train to nowhere.

The high-speed rail project, expected to be finished in 2033, was originally supposed travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes. That was the ballot initiative promise in 2009, which intoxicated voters who narrowly approved $9 billion in bonds for Proposition 1A.

Brown expects to have more than $3 billion in auction proceeds available to spend this year, but on what and how?

As an ardent supporter of Governor Jerry Brown’s grossly over-budget, two years behind schedule High Speed Rail project, which is facing many legal, political and technical challenges, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is once again learning that he should think twice before trying to own one of Brown signature projects, or before he publicly questions the Governor.

Last year Sen. de Leon invested valuable time and effort as part of a California Senate delegation to Japan to look first-hand at Japan’s high-speed rail network and other public transportation infrastructure. Recently he appointed Los Angeles resident Lorraine Paskett to the California High Speed Rail Authority.

But Sen. de Leon may have already Jumped The Shark when in June 2014, prior to being named Senate President, he told Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton that he was going to “save the governor from himself on high-speed rail.” De Leon said the Governor misunderstood the priorities of the project and that it made no sense to begin laying track in the Central Valley.  “I don’t think it makes sense to lay down track in the middle of nowhere,” said de León. “It’s illogical. No one lives out there in the tumbleweeds.”

Brown must have heard Sen. de Leon loudly and clearly.

Recently, the California High Speed Rail Authority leaked to the Los Angeles Times that it is now looking at “junking” the Los Angeles phase of the project, in de Leon’s home district, and is instead eyeing a less technically difficult, potentially more economical Northern California section that begins in San Jose and ends in Bakersfield.  “The state rail authority is studying an alternative to build the first segment in the Bay Area, running trains from San Jose to Bakersfield,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “If the plan does change, it would be a significant reversal that carries big financial, technical and political impacts, especially in Southern California.”

This is a significant reversal that flies in the face of everything that Brown and the High Speed Rail Authority have repeatedly said since 2012. It also has enormous financial, technical and political implications.

Sen. Pres. pro Tem Kevin De Leon

While it certainly isn’t cast in stone (yet), the news is especially troublesome for HSR supporters in the Los Angeles area, and Senate Pres. Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, who must now be stewing after once again being publicly lectured by his elder, Governor Brown.

After having the plank he was standing on cut off by Brown last session after de Leon strongly backed the governor in supporting SB 350’s fossil fuel cutback plans, he now has another reason to wonder why he and Brown can’t just seem to get along.

A recent poll by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution found that 53 percent of voters wanted the change to reallocate funding from the bullet train project to water projects.

The High Speed Rail project costs, originally a $9 Billion bond, have skyrocketed and will exceed $100 Billion, despite the HSRA’s feeble attempts to scale it back. The project costs have varied from an original estimate of $33 billion, to an HSRA “official” high estimate of $98.5 billion, and then cut down to the dubious $68.4 billion after receiving statewide criticism. But in 2012, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said that it is “highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize,” and rail experts have estimated the project will cost more than $136 billion.”

Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, has been a consistent critique of Gov. Brown’s destructive and unnecessary train: “Poll after poll shows California voters want to stop throwing taxpayer-dollars down the rat hole that is High-Speed Rail.  This latest poll ought to be a reality check for the governor, and others, who continue to stubbornly ignore the will of the People.”

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