By Steve Knight, Assemblyman 36th Assembly District
Just prior to the legislature breaking for the month of July, both houses voted in favor of Senate Bill 1029 that appropriates $8 billion for the first phase of construction for the High Speed Rail project in the Central Valley. This has been an increasingly contentious issue, evident by the fact that the measure passed by just one vote in the State Senate. I opposed this measure, which authorizes spending taxpayer dollars on this project while crucial priorities are facing cuts, and Californians are being asked to approve more tax increases. The interest alone on this $8 billion allocation could be better utilized to address crime rates and strengthen the education system.
When this proposal originally came before voters in 2008, the completed project price tag was $45 billion. Since then, the cost has skyrocketed to a shocking $98 billion last year, only to be reduced to the current $68 billion. The constantly changing cost has added to reduced public confidence, not only for the high speed rail project, but also for the Governor’s facilitation of it.
Not only has the price skyrocketed from what the voters saw on the ballot in 2008, but the current High Speed Rail system is projected to rely on annual taxpayer funded subsidies to not go bankrupt. The Legislative Analyst Office, a bi-partisan state analytical and research body, has repeatedly warned that the completed project, as currently designed, will operate in the red. Primarily because a significant amount of investment anticipated from private corporations has not materialized. The reason for this is all-too clear: High-Speed Rail in California is far too risky of an investment.
Most importantly, Californians now seem to oppose moving forward with this project. In a poll last December, 65% of the public stated they wanted a re-vote on the project. 59% said they would reject the proposal. This public outcry fell on deaf ears this June when the legislature refused to pass an amendment to the California state budget that would have brought the vote back to the people. The Democrat majority continues to ignore the very clear call of the public to abandon this boondoggle.