A bill that would bar the state from issuing any further bonds to fund the California High-Speed Rail Project following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s vow to scale it back amid cost overruns has been introduced, its author, Sen. Jeff Stone said Wednesday.
Senate Bill 340, if approved by the Legislature and signed by Newsom, would make it illegal for state authorities to sell the remaining $6.6 billion in general obligation bonds authorized under Proposition 1A, approved by the state’s voters in 2008.
According to the Department of Finance, $3.3 billion of the voter-approved bond has gone to market since 2009, and of that, $2.6 billion must still be issued.
“California’s High-Speed Rail is nothing more than the construction of an unsustainable and unachievable boondoggle dream,” said Stone, R-La Quinta, said. “Voters approved this project with the hope of funding economic transformation.
“The state has instead mismanaged billions of dollars to deliver what is nothing more than a train track that may sometime connect Merced with Bakersfield.”
There was no immediate response to an email sent to a representative of Newsom after regular business hours seeking comment.
Newsom announced in his State of the State address last week that a statewide high-speed rail line no longer appeared feasible because of costs and poor planning. The current estimated price tag is $77 billion — a roughly 70 percent jump from earlier this decade, according to published reports.
Newsom said he wanted to take “all the unallocated money and focus it, with intensity, with transparency, with increased level of scrutiny” on a segment of the line that still seems viable, connecting Merced and Bakersfield on a 171-mile track that could be completed by 2027.
There was no word on what passenger loads might be or whether the rail system would be self-sustaining after completion, or require taxpayer subsidies to operate.
The concept of a 220 mph bullet train running between the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles, as envisioned by former Gov. Jerry Brown, is no longer in the works, Newsom said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation stated Tuesday that it will cancel a planned $929 million grant for the high-speed rail system. According to President Donald Trump, the White House wants California to repay $2.5 billion previously allocated to California for the project under the federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
“The governor has rightfully admitted the promises made to voters in 2008, when they narrowly approved Proposition 1A, have been broken, and it seems clear that now is the time to cut bait and admit the fantasy has failed,” Stone said. “We should stop throwing taxpayer dollars down the drain.”
SB 340 has not been assigned to a Senate committee for review.
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