Lawmaker proposes revote on high-speed rail funds
As legislators prepare to return to the Capitol this week, one lawmaker is proposing legislation that would allow voters a do-over on the $9 billion in state bonds they authorized for California’s high-speed rail project.
State Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican from Richvale, has pledged to introduce a bill that would authorize a revote, citing an independent review panel’s report Tuesday that recommends the Legislature not approve issuing billions of dollars in bonds to partly pay for the first section of track in the Central Valley.
On almost every aspect of the project, including capital costs, ridership projections, private-sector participation and future funding sources, the report gave a thumbs down.
“Californians don’t want high speed rail, the state can’t afford it and the costs far exceed any benefit to our state’s transportation infrastructure,” LaMalfa said in a statement.
Democrats expressed their own doubts about the project.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Concord Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said the report raised “a number of honest and legitimate questions.” “While I support high speed rail, the vision must be based in financial reality and the best interest of California’s commuters,” he said in a statement.
The California High Speed Rail Authority offered a swift rebuke of the report, calling it “deeply flawed, in some areas misleading and its conclusions are unfounded.”
The critique was released by the California High-Speed Peer Review Group, the body created by the Legislature to study the overall feasibility of the project, and comes just weeks before Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to ask lawmakers to authorize construction borrowing.
A recent poll indicates a sharp drop in public support for the project that voters first approved in 2008.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento