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High Speed Rail Project Could Be Back On The Ballot

California_State_CapitolA bill that puts the question of whether the High Speed Rail project should charge ahead or be derailed has been introduced in the California legislature. Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) today introduced SB 985 that asks the voters if they want to proceed with California’s proposed $98.5 billion high speed rail project.  The measure already has earned 31 co-sponsors, including Senator Tony Strickland.

“Voters have been misled about the true costs of High Speed Rail from the start,” LaMalfa said. “The costs have tripled since 2008 and every objective observer has said this project it too expensive and is unlikely to be completed.”

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According to LaMalfa’s office, in the past year the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 1A’s ballot language was misleading, the High Speed Rail Authority admitted to using government funds to lobby Congress and the State Legislature, Congress has withdrawn future funds from the project, the Legislative Analyst Office has called into question the legality of the financing for the proposed first leg of construction, and the High Speed Rail Peer Review recommended not building the project.

“Moving forward with just the first $2.7 billion in bonds to fund the ‘train to nowhere’ section of rail will cost California taxpayers $180 million a year just to service that debt.  That is less than 3 percent of the total cost to build the project,” continued LaMalfa.   “Are the supporters of this project willing to lay off teachers, cops and firefighters to pay for an unusable section of track?”

“This has been a long time coming, getting it to an actual vote here,” LaMalfa said. “But it’s the right thing to do.

LaMalfa has spent some time enlightening his constituents about the changes in the hoped-for rail system that voters approved four years ago.

“This thing you voted on in 2008 is not what was described at that time,” he said. “The price is a whole lot different. Now that everyone is seeing reality, they need to have another shot at whether they spend the money.”

“It is time the voters got a do over.  If the legislature acts quickly this measure can be on the November ballot and voters can have their say- real costs in hand.”

LaMalfa said that he expects the bill to draw a significant amount of opposition, especially from those who stand to benefit from the project.

During his State of the State address last week, Governor Jerry Brown strongly defended the High Speed Rail project, comparing it to other engineering and transportation projects of the past that were predicted to be disasters.

“I don’t know if it’s a legacy issue or an environmental issuem but he’s fighting back against the logic and mathematics,” LaMalfa said. “He is so wedded to it, the public needs to push back.”

“The bottom line is the bottom line,” he said. “Especially if you look at the tripling of the costs – and it’s going to keep going up – and the voters have to choose between funding schools and law enforcement with money we don’t have. Bonds have to be sold and the debt has to be serviced and that’s more than we can handle right now.”