High-speed special interest halts bill

April 24, 2012

By Katy Grimes

The Legislature appears to have killed one more attempt to reel in the out-of-control high-speed rail checkbook. But despite facts, numbers and alternatives to the nearly $100 billion project, Democratic lawmakers appeared to be useful tools in the high-stakes game of rail bucks.

After spending more than $500 million on nothing, the plan no longer represents what the voters approved in 2008.

AB 1455, by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, was on the agenda Monday in the Assembly Transportation committee. And once again, open disdain for any accountability of rail spending was obvious, despite her urging fiscal responsibility for the health of everyone in the state.

“This is deja vu–I was here one year ago with a similar bill,” Harkey said. Calling the rail plan “Cocaine for the train,” and “crack for the track,” Harkey once again explained that there is no funding source for the train system and it is just a nifty idea.

“The original $43 billion price tag has more than doubled, there is no private money, and the feds are not coming through,” Harkey said. “All that remains is a restricted bond, of which $950 million is allocated to regional rail, and $9 billion for high-speed rail.”

“The federal government and Democratically controlled Senate are not sending us high-speed rail money,” Harkey said. “Cap and trade revenues don’t exist, which is supposed to be about emission reductions anyway.”

“There is no ridership model,” Harkey continued, “no cost analysis, and the High-Speed Rail Authority claims that it will cost 10 cents a mile, when in Europe the cost is 40 cents per mile.”

Harkey added that there are no right-of-way agreements, a crucial step in the building process. For land owners in the way of the track, purchase agreements must be made to buy the land. But Harkey has repeatedly said that no such agreements exist yet.

Agreements with existing rail companies also need to be worked out.

“The Legislative Analyst’s Office, the State Auditor, and U.S. Government Accounting office warn against it,” Harkey added. “And, it needs a subsidy. All trains have subsidies.” But the legislation and bond initiative promised “no state operating subsidies.”

Harkey reminded the committee that Californians can get high-speed travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines.

“What we need is water, power, roads and dependable rail from county to county. It won’t pay for itself,” Harkey said. “This will create more unemployment in the Central Valley–there is no reason to cut through prime farm land. Send the bill back and ask voters if they want to spend the money for regular rail instead.”

AB 1455 would “reduce the amount of the indebtedness authorized by the act to an amount not less than the amount contracted at the time of the reduction or to repeal the act if no debt has been contracted. This bill would reduce the amount of general obligation debt  authorized for high-speed rail purposes.”

According to Harkey, the bill makes use of a little known section of the California Constitution, Article XVI, which allows the Legislature to repeal uncontracted bond debt.  AB 1455 would repeal the remaining $9 billion in available state debt funding for the project, but allow $950 million to be used for local and regional rail projects.

 The voters were sold a lemon

“The voters were deceived,” Harkey said. “The project lacks sufficient private, public or debt funding to complete even a requisite operating segment, as required under Proposition 1A.”

“California is struggling with long term deficits and debt,” Harkey added. “The governor claims we need more taxes; our existing infrastructure is in dire need of extension and repair; and voters are suffering from buyer’s remorse.”

Just as happened with Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa’s recent legislation to put high-speed rail back before voters, facts and data were not enough to pass the bill.

With the support of the City Council of San Juan Capistrano, the Kings County Board of Supervisors, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego Board of Supervisors, Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall,  Burlingame City Council members and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, it was clear that the momentum is there to stop the existing high-speed rail plan, and either modify it as Harkey suggests, or take the entire plan back to voters.

Testimony for Harkey’s bill was strong. “This is a poor investment,” said Michael Bronner, a Burlingame city council member. Bronner testified that he is an investment banker as well as a council member, and has to make decisions about other people’s money. “None of the current analysis was available in 2008. This is just a more comfortable trip for the wealthy from San Francisco to Los Angeles.”

“This project screws our kids,” said William Grindley, who worked extensively on the high-speed rail financial reports.

Big-Labor Opponents

Opposition was predictable. The High-Speed Rail Authority testified that Harkey’s bill would end the high-speed rail project.

“This is one of the very few ways the Legislature can create jobs and spur the economy,” said  Ray Trujillo with the State Building and Construction Trades Council, a labor union for construction workers. “Thousands of high paying jobs,” he added. “The alternatives to High-Speed Rail–runways, highways, roads–costs twice as much.”

That comment caused a stir in the audience, and several people sitting around me said that was a lie–the cost to beef up airports, highways and roads would be much less. “Waiting to build the train would only be more expensive,” said Karen Greene Ross with the HSRA.

Other opponents included the American Council of Engineering Companies of California
and the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, and the Teamsters.

Harkey answered opponents’ with a few more facts: “It will cost $1.96 million per job created for High-Speed Rail. This isn’t a jobs program,” Harkey said. “Instead, for $100 million, we could create 1.8 million highway maintenance jobs.”

Harkey said, “220 mph trains don’t exist. This is not a business plan, it’s an idea. We have $3.5 billion of federal stimulus dollars which must be spent before September 2017.” Harkey said that the real plan was just to build some track to get the funding. Trains aren’t even part of the picture yet.

What sounded reasonable to voters in 2008 is no longer even possible without bankrupting the state. This is a special interest project run amok.

Despite Harkey’s pleas that high-speed rail is not a partisan issue, the committee voted entirely along party lines, 3-6 against. The bill remained on call to allow the absent committee members cast votes.

 

20 comments

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  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 24 April, 2012, 09:55

    These pols are walking disaster zones. First, they totally miscalculate the costs of the high speed rail project by tens of billions of dollars and place those numerical misrepresentations in the official ballot measure voter information. Then they get it approved based on those misrepresentations. Then once they get outted they spend millions of our dollars trying to convince us that it will all work out and we must move forward with it anyway.

    If a private business tried to pull that crap on their customers it would result in a massive class action lawsuit and probable jail time for fraud.

    Everytime I think they have reach the pinnacle of malfeasance they outdo themselves. I watch is the state of disbelief.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 24 April, 2012, 12:04

    Mr. Beezy-Boob– I sort of disagree. I found the cost projection while obviously low given what we all now know after Jenkins, still to have ben a good faith calculation. We need high speed rail. I just think we can’t afford it at this time.

    Class action of course wouldn’t be the vehicle civilly in a private cause of action of course because the class would be un designatable.

    Of course you must know this.

    Reply this comment
  3. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 24 April, 2012, 12:19

    “I found the cost projection while obviously low given what we all now know after Jenkins, still to have ben a good faith calculation”

    So they were off by a minimum of $20B and possibly up to $40B and that was done in ‘good faith’? heh. As I stated, if a private business tried a similar ‘bait and switch’ scam it would be justifiably labeled ‘fraud’ and chances are damn good that people would get prosecuted and sent to jail for it.

    “Class action of course wouldn’t be the vehicle civilly in a private cause of action of course because the class would be un designatable”

    What are you talking about? There are class action suits in the private business world all the fracking time. Any customer who was screwed out of money by company misrepresentation or ‘bait and switch’ fraud would be part of that class action. Falsifying voter guide information and then trying to force the gamed outcome down the taxpayer’s throat after the fact is IMO a horrendous example of malfeasance and fraud.

    Of course you must know this.

    Reply this comment
  4. Knowledgeable
    Knowledgeable 24 April, 2012, 14:07

    According to the Cal State University web site, the cost to pay the full tuition, housing, living costs, medical and miscellaneous costs at the most expensive campus (Vallejo) is $24,938 per year or about $100,000 for four years. That’s everything, not just tuition and fees.

    By spending over $500Million to date for the Authority’s undergraduate C- work product, the Legislature has cheated more than 5,000 students of a free, four year, all expenses paid scholarship.

    By spending that half billion $s, and authorizing another $2.7Billion for Prop1A bonds the Legislature will cheat more than 32,000 Californians of the chance to be an asset to the state’s economy by having their full four-year CSU education paid for. Educated populations earn more, create more jobs and pay more taxes.

    Is the train more important than a well-educated, productive, well paid and tax contributing workforce?

    Reply this comment
  5. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 24 April, 2012, 16:46

    “Is the train more important than a well-educated, productive, well paid and tax contributing workforce?”

    The primary purpose of college is not to educate a workforce anymore. It’s to make bankers and college execs filthy rich and turn students into debt slaves who are beholden to their masters for 2 to 3 decades after graduation. Who but a con artist would peddle a 4 year degree in ethnic studies or sociology at a cost of $100,000 to a young unsophisticated kid only to smirk at him at the cap ‘n gown ceremony? Come on. Call it what it is. These people are flim flam artists. Cut out of the same mold as those who invade other nations based on false premises then send low-middle class kids over to the sand dunes to die for the sugar daddy corporate pig. Wake up.

    Reply this comment
  6. Uncle Tio
    Uncle Tio 24 April, 2012, 17:21

    If this was a debate Beelzebub would win on paper. But I do not know anything about building a railroad. But the CHSRA is government. Government does not creat jobs but they do pay people to do nothing. Why does the term waste, fraud, and abuse only appear in govermental jobs? Is the CHRSA realy expecting to make a profit on this? Then why are they only gambling with money that’s taken from the 99%. The only people who will make money on this is the rental car companies at each terminal.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 24 April, 2012, 17:51

    Beezy Boob? It’s obvious you little about fed or state class action cert….right?

    It happens “all the fraggin time”– is this the legal standard for cert.?

    Hmmmmm

    showing your ignorance or?

    Reply this comment
  8. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 24 April, 2012, 18:12

    Every post you just dig yourself deeper and deeper. Most people stop at some point. But you’re 3/4’ers the way to China. Why stop now??? 🙂

    Reply this comment
  9. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 24 April, 2012, 18:20

    Btw, Ted. You’re really Skippy incognito, ain’t ya??? No two people could have such similar board personas. It would be like two fingerprints from separate individuals coming back a match. At least blend your names and call yourself ‘Ted Stole Skippy’s Dog’. Be creative.

    Reply this comment
  10. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 24 April, 2012, 18:55

    You’re a clown. I have no idea what you’re talking about…of course neither do you. LOL

    Reply this comment
  11. queeg
    queeg 25 April, 2012, 08:40

    Brutal….whew!

    The word pollution…..

    Can’t we all get along together?

    There has to be respect and decorum even among flaming loons!!!!

    Reply this comment
  12. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 25 April, 2012, 08:45

    well said Queegy!

    Reply this comment
  13. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 25 April, 2012, 15:03

    “well said Queegy!”

    He was referring to you, bonehead. Holy Christ. You must have steer manure for brains. 😀

    Reply this comment
  14. queeg
    queeg 25 April, 2012, 15:30

    Teddy has a good heart….he calls em how he sees em!!!

    Reply this comment
  15. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 25 April, 2012, 19:41

    Thanks Queeg—- hey on another note, wasn’t that funny how old beezy thinks you meant me! LOL OMG BFF

    Reply this comment
  16. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 25 April, 2012, 20:56

    “Thanks Queeg—- hey on another note, wasn’t that funny how old beezy thinks you meant me!”

    Do you need a photo dictionary or something? Some things are simply self-explanatory. Like ‘water = clear liquid’ Queeq doesn’t post brain twisters.

    Reply this comment
  17. Ted Steele, Janitor
    Ted Steele, Janitor 25 April, 2012, 21:14

    lol still in the dark beezy? oh my.

    Reply this comment
  18. nowsane
    nowsane 26 April, 2012, 11:30

    Mr. Steele,
    …”We need high speed rail….”
    I must disagree, we are not Europe, with its heavily populated cities located far apart. Most studies have shown that with the US’s wider-spread cities and towns, high-speed rail can’t even beat a vehicle being driven between these locations. Air is the nation’s and CA’s ideal speedy travel between cities. For speedier travel between smaller communities, CA should look at the buses running on the East Coast between towns that stop&let-off at any locations. They are proving that private industry can provide transportation needs wherever the exist.
    Furthermore, this Prop should be resubmitted to the voters with the more accurate cost data, if it exists. This is a “BROWNDOGGLE”

    Reply this comment
  19. queeg
    queeg 26 April, 2012, 11:35

    What we need is one post no more than six lines per poster….

    Out of control belligerant hate posting is alarming….

    Reply this comment
  20. Edward Rasen
    Edward Rasen 5 May, 2012, 13:20

    This is another classic example of unions touting jobs at the expense of taxpayers. And of course the Democratic Party is simply a front for unions and don’t give a damn about taxpayers. It is simply about creating union jobs with taxpayer money. It doesn’t matter if the project is legitimate or viable.

    California cannot afford this fisaco. Governor Brown is a hypocrite and isn’t concerned about balancing the budget. He is anxious to squander money on a worthless train that will never be profitable. Meanwhile, he does nothing about subsidizing solar panels for homeowners. Taxpayers must reject his planned tax increases. If California is truly in dire straits then why did Jerry Brown sign the Dream Act, providing $100 million in college tuition subsidies to illegal immigrants.

    Don’t believe anything that Jerry says. He is a charlatan.

    Reply this comment

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