Boondoggles

July 1: Do or Die for California High Speed Train Funding (Guess Which One We're Hoping for?)

|

The building in the back is vacant because the businesses inside all moved to Nevada.

Via The Orange County Register, Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has named July 1 as the deadline to appropriate $2.6 billion in bonds to start construction California's high speed boondoggle rail. California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) Chairman Dan Richard agreed the bond appropriation must be passed by July 1.

You may recall U.S. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood showing up in Sacramento earlier this month to browbeat the legislature to get moving on the money right now or risk losing the feds matching $3.3 billion of the expense (total cost for the whole project: at least $68 billion). At the time LaHood threatened legislators, California's budget deficit stood at $9 billion. It is now $16 billion. Yet, Jerry Brown's budget revise still funds $700,000 for the staff for the CHSRA project, and it's clear that he still wants to move forward with the initial line from Fresno to Merced.

The Register's Brian Joseph speculates the bonds are likely to pass because the Democrats in the Democratic-dominated legislature are supporters. But as the Los Angeles Times noted in their coverage of LaHood's visit, some Democrats are starting to get leery about rushing the process.

If the bond isn't approved, the train construction cannot begin. And as Tim Cavanaugh has pointed out, the state may not be able to legally issue the bonds, given the train's likely need of an operational subsidy, which the initiative authorizing the bond explicitly forbids.

Of course, deadlines for government projects have passed before, only to be extended, so our headline should probably be treated as wishful thinking.

More of Reason's exhaustive and frustrating coverage of high speed rail here.