Choo-Choo Boondoggle Runs Off Cliff

John Seiler:

Ding-dong, the stupid bullet train is dead.

It’s all over but the scrambling for a couple hundred million dollars of our tax money in various funds.

The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group yesterday issued a report condemning the boondoggle.

Will Kempton is chairman of the group. He’s also the head of the Orange County Transportation Authority and former director of CalTrans. He wrote, “We cannot overemphasize the fact that moving ahead on the (high-speed rail) without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and value to the state, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the state of California.”

Rail authority board Chairman Tom Umberg replied, “What is most unfortunate about this report is not its analytical deficiency, but that it would create a cloud over the program that threatens not only federal support but also the confidence of the private sector necessary for them to invest their dollars.”

Whatever one thinks of this controversy, Umberg is right that the “cloud” over the boondoggle will kill off any private-sector interest — something that anyway was about the size of a run-over penny on a railroad track.

As with redevelopment — which last week was buried by the state Supreme Court — the key factor now is the state’s lack of money. It’s sinking in for everyone, even liberal Democrats, that there isn’t going to be a new boom any time soon. Which means there won’t be a new dot-com boom or real-estate bubble to goose revenues for a couple of years.

A tax increase — maybe more than one — will be on the November ballot. But that’s months away. And there’s no certainty voters will approve an increase.

No matter what, the first six months of fiscal year 2012-13, which begins on July 1, will not include more taxes. New taxes only would take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

So, the state is going to have to live within its means for once.

Which means no money for such incredibly wasteful programs as the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Gov. Jerry Brown says he still believes the train would save the state money. But he realizes that, even if that’s true, it wouldn’t save money for decades.

He’s governor now, not then, and there’s no money.

Jan. 4, 2012


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