Budget fight shows unlikelihood of fed $ for bullet train

Budget fight shows unlikelihood of fed $ for bullet train

bullet.train.curveCongress’ most intense squabbles over the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending plan that passed Saturday weren’t over the budget details. They were over plans to add provisions in the measure to modify existing laws, most notably language that would weaken some protections against a fresh round of Wall Street shenanigans and abuses. That triggered a crusade led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Here’s why the nature of the congressional budget fight is significant to the state’s bullet train: As Joel Fox noted earlier this month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is counting on federal money to construct the $68 billion project.

Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the High Speed Rail project, argued … [federal]  funding would arrive. He said the message from the High Speed Rail authority to Washington is “leave us alone” for two years. In other words, the project has the resources to get the project started and then he expects Washington would get on board once they see progress.

The squeeze on domestic discretionary spending

But it’s not 2009, with a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House passing $800 billion stimulus bills. It’s a much-different Washington, as I detailed here.

The big majority of Democrats and Republicans alike accept that we are in a new sequester-driven era of relative federal frugality, in which even military spending is contained as Social Security, Medicare and welfare benefits keep eating up a bigger percentage of revenue. The squeeze on discretionary domestic spending grows with every budget.

Against this backdrop, it is simply ludicrous for one state government to think lawmakers from the other 49 states will decide to fund its gigantic public works project. But that is just what Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority say they believe about the $68 billion bullet train. …

By any measure, the bullet train is shaping up as a boondoggle. But even if it were a shining testament to state planning and innovation, the idea that lawmakers from the rest of America would carve money out of a very constricted federal budget to pay for a California-only project is preposterous.

Earlier this year, The New York Times took a broader look at state bullet-train projects and federal funding. It too was skeptical of the sort of scenario Morales lays out for future money from Congress.

The quote the Times used from Morales is funny, at least if it is what passes for optimism in the CHSRA:

“The Golden Gate Bridge was tied up for years in hundreds of lawsuits. We haven’t had quite that many.”


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