Cracks Appear in California State Senate as High-Speed Rail Vote Approaches Station


I've run out of clever things to say about trains. Sorry.

Next week marks the announced deadline for the California state Senate to agree to issue bonds to fund the first leg of the $69 billion high-speed rail project. The deadline is intended to give the state enough lead time to begin construction before the end of the year in order to qualify for $3.5 billion in matching stimulus funds from the federal government.

But Sacramento columnist Dan Walters is taking note that some state Senate Democrats are balking. They might not have the votes after all:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has publicly pledged to approve construction funds and wants a vote next week. Just weeks ago, Senate approval appeared certain, but with Republicans solidly opposed, Steinberg needs support from 20 of the 24 other Democratic senators. At the moment, the votes aren't there.

Three Democrats—Mark DeSaulnier, Alan Lowenthal and Joe Simitian—have been openly skeptical of the project. At least three others, and probably more, are unconvinced and uncommitted, vote counters say.

Steinberg suffered a setback this week when Democratic senators strongly objected to placing hundreds of millions of dollars in bullet train property acquisition and engineering money in the budget bill before a vote on proceeding with a 100-mile segment in the San Joaquin Valley.

A revised budget bill that removed the disputed funds was quickly written and placed on the floors of both houses Wednesday.

Also of note: DeSaulnier is up for re-election in November, term-limited Lowenthal is running for Congress, and term-limited Simitian just won a seat on Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors. San Jose, where a public vote to reform public employee pension benefits also passed in June, is Santa Clara County's seat. Gov. Jerry Brown may ignore the public polls turning against the train, but not all Democrats have that option.

Brown may regret ignoring the polls anyway. A commenter on Walters' column points out that issuing bonds for high-speed rail could jeopardize Brown's pet tax increase vote come November. I can see the campaign ads in my head now blanketing the airwaves, pointing out that Sacramento expects voters to approve a tax increase after spending billions on a train project the majority no longer wants.

Over at the federal level in Congress, House Republicans voted today to block future use of federal funds on California's high-speed rail. The vote was along party lines and wouldn't affect the money already earmarked, so it will probably go nowhere fast (train pun here).

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    You know who else died today…

    1. NPR has been doing a 24 hour-a-day retrospective on Ephron for the last 3 days. For a minute I thought it was a Nora Ephron telethon… but I guess NPR just loves her that much.

      1. She wrote some stuff for Esquire in the early ’70s(?). Her stuff was OK, proto-snark.
        Why her death is of interest to other than her family or agent is a bit of a mystery.

        1. She wrote Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, among others. A prototypical smart funny New York Jewish left-liberal. Of course NPR would love her (and vice versa).

          I’m partial to that type as well, though my politics (as mild-mannered and compromising as they are) often gets in their way… leftists can be so intolerant of ideological diversity….

  2. At the moment, the votes aren’t there.

    They don’t choo-choo-choose this.

    1. You need repentance for this.

      1. I favor exile.

        1. After yesterday, I don’t blame you. You’re not getting off that easy.

    2. And there’s a picture of a train.
      Nice gag.

  3. Re: the alt text.
    How about a comment about the bird-blenders?
    ‘This bird died for your sins’?
    ‘It takes a a village of these to chill your wine’?

  4. California really, truly needs to start building this fucking shit. For my entertainment.

    1. I can see it becoming the public works equivalent of a Wile E Coyote scheme that ends with him falling a thousand feet into a canyon, followed closely by a few boulders.

      1. Not coincidentally, that image also describes California’s fiscal path.

  5. OT:

    A bunch of never-heard-of-em celebrities and their barf inducing twitters.I can’t wait to read the sycophantic shit these dumb fucks tweet when Emperor Obama starts putting people in ovens.

    Way to go!@HOPE4aFINALSOLUTION!WE didn’t need those people anyways!Like sooo close minded

    -@some chick from a reality show

    Y U mad @people’nOVENS U lost so sry

    -@Aaron Sorkin

      1. Just checked and it was 63 House seats and 5 Senate seats.

    1. Sycophantic?

      “F*** yes Mr. President, you are a unicorn” (from Sophia Bush)

      Yeah, just a bit.

  6. Jerry Brown wants to get California aboard the high speed train to bankruptcy.

  7. The illustration of a train going through a field of windmills reminds me of a perpetual motion scheme. In real life, you wouldn’t want those windmills next to the train. But in the perpetual motion scheme, the train going past the windmills will make a breeze to turn them (ok) and this will add more energy to the windmills than it takes from the train (not ok).

  8. One huge problem with many of these big government projects is that they have not decided what exactly they are going to build, yet they put out estimates of the cost even though.

    They don’t know exactly where this train is going

    They don’t know the exact route it will take.

    They don’t know how much land they will have to buy or condemn.

    They don’t know how much will be at grade level, above ground, below ground

    They don’t know what companies will build it or their bids

    They don’t know what type of train or who will build it

    They don’t know who will supply all the other parts and materials needed.

    They don’t know how long it will take to build or the interest rates charged

    Until they decide these things all they have is some pretty pictures. Yet they will sign off on it based on an estimated cost which can in no way be accurate.

    1. I’m project managing a job for a client right now that is exactly like that. Not surprisingly, they are having money troubles.

      1. Client are often like that in the worlds of graphic and web design. The best is when they don’t have any text or graphic content but want you to design it first.

  9. Know Calif State Senator Mark DeSaulnier? California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier authored the bill that allows public employees to spike their pension payments so public employees receive pension payments that are greater than their work salary. DeSaulnier’s bill is so sweet that career employees at all levels often end up with more, or nearly as much, take home income by retiring as keeping their jobs

    Guess who is paying for DeSaulnier’s pay public employees’ pension payments greater than their salary? You pay, whether a Democrat, Republican, or Tea Party.

    75% of the money DeSaulnier collects comes from Sacramento. Senator DeSaulnier’s priorities are the Sacramento lobbyists.

    Send a forceful message to Calif. State Senator DeSaulnier that his self serving bill for lobbyists, paid by you and I, is unacceptable.

  10. The illustration of a train going through a field of windmills reminds me of a perpetual motion scheme. In real life, you wouldn’t want those windmills next to the train. But in the perpetual motion scheme, the train going past the windmills will make a breeze to turn them (ok) and this will add more energy to the windmills than it takes from the train (not ok).

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