Assembly approves high-speed rail funding
After the 51-27 vote on the Assembly floor, Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement that high-speed rail has "enormous potential for California." But the funding faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is expected to vote Friday.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) reiterated that it will be a tight vote.
"I'm meeting with my members," he said.
Some Democrats have expressed concerns about the state's plan to start construction in the Central Valley, rather than wealthier, higher population areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco. They're also worried there won't be more funding from the federal government to eventually complete the project.
"Where's the money? Show me the money," Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) said during a Senate hearing on Thursday. "You're asking me to take a high-risk strategy."
But Gov. Jerry Brown and the federal government, which is supplying much of the funding, have insisted on their current plan.
[Update, 5:46 p.m. Brown issued a statement Thursday commending the Assembly "for supporting billions of dollars in job-creating rail infrastructure investment in Los Angeles, the Central Valley and the Bay Area."]
In hopes of boosting support among skeptical Bay Area senators, the funding bill now includes more money to electrify tracks used by the Bay Area's Cal Train, which would allow the use of more efficient engines. There's also more money to improve the Los Angeles County Metrolink system.
Republicans have been united in their opposition to the rail project.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernandino) called it "a high speed train robbery."
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Assembly Speaker John Pérez speaking in the Capitol last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press