Thursday, January 19, 2012

California's governor demanding that the tides of truth about high-speed rail turn at his command

Governor Jerry Brown of California was hired to bail out the state from its severe financial crisis. To do that, he is demanding sales tax increases and increased income taxes for the upper income levels.  He has already cut the budget beyond the fat to the muscle.  He is also threatening to institute further and more Draconian budget slashing for the state's already pathetic education system. 

We won't comment further on these intentions of the Governor.  However we have and will continue to comment on the other shoe that he has dropped, high-speed rail.  The Governor supports it enthusiastically, aggressively, and even confrontationally.

He's dismisses those who have been critical of the disastrous mis-management of the project.  Using terms like "dystopian," "declinist," and "naysayers," the Governor lowered himself to the same ad hominem attacks used by other single-minded pro-HSR bloggers.

It is offensive, to say the least, and unprofessional for a Governor who was elected to represent all the people, not just those who support his whimsical and craven agendas, to engage his critics with such callous rhetoric. [Edit. Governor, do as I say, not as I do!]

Journalists like Dan Walters have already pointed out the contradictory position that Brown has wrapped himself in.  On the one hand, Brown claims success at budget and debt reduction for the state.  On the other hand, he promotes a project now having a $100 billion price ticket that is bound to climb far higher still, and will be devastatingly costly to the state. While at the same time, the Governor doesn't have a clue to where such amounts of money will come from. That is certainly not the new frugality espoused by this Governor.

Three other, Republican, Governors, no less ambitious for their states than Jerry Brown, turned back those federal funds for fear of the concomitant spending that these funds would demand of the state.

Granting the Governor an opportunity for seeking new, visionary infrastructure development for California, he could not have made a worse choice than this highly derided project that has garnered nothing but ridicule and seen the California voters turn from marginal support to roundly rejecting it.  

He could have lead the charge to attempt to shift those funds toward repairing and upgrading existing infrastructure, including the water repair and diversion plans he holds dear, as well as upgrading the state ports for improved movement of imports and exports, so vital to the state's economy. He could even have, retaining the "high-speed rail" label, improved rail transit in the two major population regions.
Instead, he chose to stick with this loser project.

We've made this point many, many times. The Governor, just between you and me, doesn't really give a damn about this train project.  By now, he knows better.  What he does give a damn about is the budget of the state; that's the horse he has chosen to ride. And bringing in $3.5 billion from the federal government, with no immediate collateral costs to the state, is irresistable. By the time those costs come back to bite the state, he'll be long gone. 

Furthermore, supporting this project provides other benefits for the Governor.  There's the $2.7 billion in matching state funds from the bond sale.  That puts over $6 billion into the state treasury available for HSR capital development.  Furthermore, it ingratiates him with the Democratic power structure in Washington.  

And, it's a politically adroit move to help Feinstein, Boxer and Pelosi, all advocates for bringing these federal dollars to California.  As we all know, politicians live by getting and receiving favors from their colleagues.  And Jerry Brown will be able to attach his name to this legacy project, thereby attaining the stature now bestowed on his father, Governor "Pat" Brown, Senior. 

We can rest assured that the Governor will lean heavily on the Democratic Legislature to see that nothing deters the DOT/FRA from providing these promised funds.  There will be no further funding. 

By 2016, the next presidential elections, the Governor will have moved on, and he is calculating that California will have forgiven and forgotten the brutal and expensive mistake made either in the Central Valley, as now intended, or in the Bay Area and LA Basin as an alternative plan for spending those dollars. Politicians always calculate that the voters have short memories.

We must not let Governor Jerry Brown get away with this destructive and costly scheme.  
CA: State of state hopeful, but high-speed rail needs to sidetrack
By admin

Gov. Jerry Brown’s indomitable optimism shone Wednesday through his second State of the State speech, and we hope he’s right about California’s resilience. However, in defense of those “dystopian,” “declinist” naysayers he scorned — wait, was he talking about us? — we will note that the governor went on to outline massive barriers to resurgent prosperity.
It’s true that if the state had more revenue, better schools, affordable pensions and a reliable water supply, we’d be in clover. Brown also has the independence to overcome barriers that would defeat politicians more beholden to special interests. Still, the road to that green pasture is mine-ridden.

One barrier is the centerpiece of Brown’s agenda: high-speed rail. Committing hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund to pay off rail bonds may make it more difficult to pass the tax initiative he needs to stabilize the budget.

In passionately defending the rail plan, Brown listed other grand projects that people originally pooh-poohed, like the Suez Canal. But how many big ideas really were not right for the time and are long forgotten? Remember the huge bags full of fresh water from northern rivers that were to be towed down the coast to the Bay Area?

It’s heartening that the governor is making water a priority and hopes to simplify school funding. And his new Office of Business Development could help attract jobs.

We just hope that note of optimism doesn’t undercut our new moniker of dystopian declinists. We sort of like it.

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