Yesterday, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit against the California High Speed Rail Authority for a very simple reason: Under the plain language of Prop 1A, which was placed on the ballot by Assembly Bill 3034, the Authority was required to prepare a business plan by September 1st. That plan is more than five weeks late, leaving voters and policy leaders without the critical information they need to make an informed decision on Proposition 1A.

It is really hard to imagine a more clear violation of law. The very first provision of AB 3034 states:

“The authority shall prepare, publish, and submit to the Legislature, not later than September 1, 2008, a revised business plan that identifies all of the following: the type of service it anticipates it will develop, such as local, express, commuter, regional, or interregional; a description of the primary benefits the system will provide; a forecast of the anticipated patronage, operating costs, and capital costs for the system; an estimate and description of the total anticipated federal, state, local, and other funds the authority intends to access to fund the construction and operation of the system; . . . . The revised business plan shall also include a discussion of all reasonably foreseeable risks the project may encounter, including, but not limited to, risks associated with the project’s finances, patronage, construction, equipment, and technology, and other risks associated with the project’s development. The plan shall describe the authority’s strategies, processes, or other actions it intends to utilize to manage those risks.”

In July, the Chairman of the Authority, Quentin Kopp, testified before the Senate Transportation Committee promising that the business plan would be ready on time. But recent statements by the Authority suggest that it is using the budget delay as an excuse not to prepare the plan. But the Authority has always been less than forthcoming with the Legislature. Apparently, they had no intention of completing the business plan on time because they know that the system envisioned by Prop 1A simply makes no economic sense. Moreover, with California’s budget crisis, we simply can’t afford it.

As California falls into recession, now is not the time to take on a minimum of a $20 billion debt costing the state’s general fund more than $650 million each year.