California is a blue state. The Republicans are a minority in both houses of the State Legislature. We have not heard from them very much over recent years about high-speed rail. Assemblywoman Harkey did make a valiant attempt to bring the project to a close in the last legislative session.
However, with the Republican success in retaking the House in Washington, our state legislators who oppose HSR are becoming encouraged and more vocal. They should, and want to thank them, especially now Senator Doug LaMalfa.
Whether he will be successful with this legislation, SB 22, or not remains to be seen. What's important is that there are emerging voices who are confronting the brutal realities of this project in this state.
When CHSRA spokeswoman Wall uses one of the rail authority's favorite words regarding the Prop. 1A election results -- "overwhelming" -- it makes me cringe and makes them sound desperate. Let's just say that it was far from "overwhelming."
Anyhow, that was in 2008, and what the voters supported then was a glamorous but hollow vision or concept. It was packaged in highly misleading terms. Now they know better.
They should have another crack at this bond proposition in the light of what we all know now, both about the state economy and about the CHSRA and its competence (or lack thereof).
We now have a wake-up call; the cold shock of reality which lets us see behind the curtain and we find ourselves staring at a scam; mismanagement, incompetence, dishonesty, illegalities and general greed, or as they say in government, "waste, fraud and abuse."
Those who read this blog should let Senator LaMalfa know that he is not without many supporters beyond his district.
LaMalfa wants voters to reconsider high speed rail
By TONI SCOTT MediaNews Writer
Updated: 01/25/2011 11:13:18 AM PST
Sen. Doug LaMalfa is introducing state legislation that intends to put the brakes on the California high speed rail project.
LaMalfa, R-Richvale, has introduced SB 22, a bill he said will re-examine the state's proposed high speed rail project.
The proposed 800-mile system would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles via the Central Valley, with the California High Speed Rail Authority the state agency overseeing the project estimating a travel time of two hours and 40 minute between the destinations.
Plans also include a route that would run from Sacramento to San Diego.
California voters approved funding for the project in 2008 through the passage of Proposition 1A, which authorized issuance of $9.95 billion in bonds. The project has also received significant federal funding, with $3.1 billion allocated to the project in 2010.
The total cost of the project has been estimated at $42.6 billion. But LaMalfa said the project will likely end up costing taxpayers much more than that.
A 2008 study jointly sponsored by the Reason Foundation, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and Citizens Against Government Waste, determined the final cost of the project would likely exceed $65.2 billion and could come with a pricetag as high as $81.4 billion.
LaMalfa said he sees the study's cost figures as more accurate and said since Proposition 1A was passed, the costs of the project keep increasing.
LaMalfa also said anticipated ridership numbers are much lower than originally reported and trip times will likely be longer than first expected.
In light of that, LaMalfa said he wants to give California voters another chance to review the project.
We need to respect the voter's decision, LaMalfa said. But the key is, the information that was presented to voters was at best bad math and at worst, deception.
LaMalfa wants to freeze all state spending on the project until a new review of the costs is conducted.
He also plans to bring the matter back to a ballot in a statewide election.
I think the voters deserve another look at this, LaMalfa said. If the voters had another chance at this, they would likely rescind it.
Rachel Wall, press secretary for the California High Speed Rail Authority, disagrees. [Edit: Perhaps because her salary depends on it.]
Wall said she could not speculate on the future success of LaMalfa's legislation, but said high speed rail has received overwhelming support from voters and California residents in the past.
Wall said the project will bring much needed jobs into the state while fulfilling a need to better the California's transportation system.
She said there are strong statewide sentiments in favor of the project. It's pretty clear that California wants high speed rail, Wall said. One of the colleagues LaMalfa will certainly have to work with as he strives for success with his legislation is Sen. Alan Lowenthal, DLong Beach.
Lowenthal chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and has remained extremely active in the high speed rail discussions. [Edit: Not any more.]
John Casey, chief of staff for Lowenthal, said although Lowenthal encourages a watchful eye on the high speed rail project, he would likely be unwilling to suspend state funding for the project, as LaMalfa's legislation calls for.
In the past, Lowenthal has requested an audit of the rail authority and has been critical of its spending practices.
However, his support of high speed rail for California has been unwavering. [Edit. Because he's a Democrat who seeks federal dollars for California.]
Still, for LaMalfa, the costs of the having high speed rail in the state seem to outweigh the benefits.
And though the rail will not run in the 4th Senate District LaMalfa represents, he said he is taking up the issue for the good of all California taxpayers.
I'm looking at it strictly from a state fiscal viewpoint, LaMalfa said. We can't afford it.
It doesn't matter whose district it goes through.
California can't afford this.