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The High Speed Rail Bond Vote Needs a Do-Over

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

That sound you heard was another one-ton weight falling on the side of the High Speed Rail scale that proclaims the project a boondoggle. The High Speed Rail Peer Review Group has recommended to the Legislature that the initial $2.7 billion in bonds not be authorized now.

The High Speed Rail plan was sold to voters as a $33-billion project that would connect the state with a bullet train, create plentiful jobs, in two decades move more passengers in a year than the current populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois COMBINED, and pay for itself after the initial nearly $10-billion bond outlay (really $20-billion with interest) from the taxpayers. All these exaggerated claims have fallen by the wayside in the three years since the measure passed.

Now we are facing a nearly $100-billion project that won’t cover the whole cost, won’t carry nearly as many passengers as projected, job creation is in doubt (see Michael Bernick’s F&H column today) and is searching high and low for financial partners with the federal government stepping back and no private funders stepping up.

State taxpayers would undoubtedly make a different decision if the high speed rail bond were in front of voters today now that the truth about the project has been revealed.

The Peer Group suggested a delay in the project before more state money is expended. There should be a delay in the project so that the voters can re-consider their position on the bond. With grandiose promises and little financial opposition during the ballot campaign, the bond measure passed by only 52.7% to 47.3%.

Senator Doug LaMalfa has vowed to introduce legislation that calls for a re-vote on the rail bond. The legislature should support the bill. The dollars earmarked for the rail bond could be put to better use for the taxpayers.

Let the voters decide.

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