All aboooooard!

In what probably is the last train stop of opposition to California’s high-speed rail project, today the California Supreme Court refused to hear a case that could have stopped it. The case, by Kings County and two local landowners whose property would be bulldozed for the project, objected that the Legislature had altered the project from the clear language of Proposition 1A in 2008, which authorized $8.6 billion in state bonds for the project.

According to California High-Speed Rail Authority Board Chairman Dan Richard, as reported in the Times, the decision:

“reaffirms that the Authority can continue building a modern high-speed rail system that connects the state, creates jobs and complies with the law. We will continue to move forward aggressively to deliver the nation’s first high-speed rail system.”

Actually, what it affirms is what I’ve said all along: The project exists to spend the $8.6 billion in bond money, plus $3.5 billion in federal moolah from President Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus program. Total: $12.1 billion: so much money the state’s political establishment — from the governor’s office to legislative leaders to the high court — was not going to let it remain unspent.

But that’s all that will be built. The project promised more federal and private support, but none will be forthcoming. No private investment firm would pour money into this tracked turkey. And the Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives — and who likely will control it at least until 2019 — won’t drop a penny on this track. A major opponent is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

PLF summary

Here’s a good summary of the situation from attorney Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which in the case filed a petition before the court against the project:

“This is a disappointing development for the interests of California taxpayers and for the cause of integrity and common sense in government. The appellate court said that the High Speed Rail project is still in ‘flux’ so it’s too soon to judge whether it conforms with what voters authorized when they passed Proposition 1A in 2008. But the appellate court also ordered that $8.6 billion in bonds for the project be approved by the judiciary, so the bonds can be sold. That’s a self-contradictory ruling, and it now stands, because the Supreme Court has declined to review it. This means that billions of dollars in bonds can be sold, even before we know what the money will be spent on, and even before we know if the final shape of the High Speed Rail project is true to the voters’ will and the state Constitution’s requirements. In other words, more than $8 billion can be borrowed on the taxpayers’ credit card, for what amounts to a pig in the poke. That’s bad public policy, and I believe it’s wrong as a matter of constitutional law.”

Cross-posted at CalWatchDog.