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Doug L.
Republican CA 1

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  • California High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

    by Representative Doug LaMalfa

    Posted on 2015-11-17

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    LaMALFA. Mr. Speaker, as a Californian, I know full well that we are suffering from a record drought; but what we already know is that California officials pushing the State's high-speed rail proposal won't be deterred by skyrocketing costs, an absence of private investment, or the $55 million--and growing--funding gap. What we didn't know was the extent of secrecy and mismanagement taxpayers would face at the hands of State officials pushing this project.

    Just this month, we learned that in 2013 the agency's main contractor projected that the first phase's costs had risen 31 percent. This information was concealed by the High-Speed Rail Authority and only released 2 years later after pressure from Congress.

    While the lack of transparency is unacceptable, especially given that taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for this project, the fundamental issue here is that the entire project is a ruse--in literal terms, a train wreck--in that State officials knew this for some time and that those same officials hid this from the public.

    In 2008, voters were promised an 800-mile system that would link Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, cost about $34 billion, and would have less than one-third of the costs paid by the State through its taxpayers. The system was promised to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under 2 hours and 40 minutes.

    Fast forward to 2011 when the price had shot up from $34 billion to $100 billion, the plan was reduced to only L.A. to San Francisco, and the State was quick to grab billions of--unknown at the time--Federal stimulus that came along later, funding that could have been used for critical needs like roads or water infrastructure that California needs so desperately, as well as now shifting cap-and-trade dollars recently created to try and prop up high-speed rail and its deficient budget dollars.

    As a State senator at the time, the first bill I introduced was one that would require them to come up with the ultimate full plan of the cost of doing high-speed rail. Having not succeeded in getting that through a majority that still liked it as it was, my next legislation was to say, now that we know this is over $100 billion, let's put this back on the ballot and in front of the voters, since the price has tripled and they were deceived at what it would cost at the time. That, too, met defeat, as those in the majority still wished to continue this boondoggle.

    Today, the Governor claims the price has fallen to $68 billion for what would be an illegal system, based on what the voters passed under Prop 1A. However, the estimate ignores the costs of tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains, ignores cost spikes in the initial construction segment, and ignores the rising costs of lands acquisition due to people having to fight because they are having their homes, their farms, and their small businesses paved over by this project.

    The promises made in 2008 ranged from low ticket prices to questionable job figures, including the fact that they were claiming there would be a million new jobs from high-speed rail. When we pinned them down in committee a little bit later, they said, well, that would mean a million job-years. That number has since been pared down. All these have been proven false. In fact, these claims are so misleading that a State court has forbidden the legislature from writing ballot measure descriptions.

    Earlier this week, I sent out a survey to residents in my weekly e- newsletter to constituents in California's First District, my own district, asking them to share their thoughts on high-speed rail as it is now. I listed a number of suggested actions we could take on high- speed rail, from leaving it as is to defunding it, and asked which best represents our constituents' position on the project now.

    Of the nearly 1,600 answers we received, their views are pretty clear. Nearly half of them said they thought funding for high-speed rail should be redirected to invest in water storage and water infrastructure to help our State right now in this drought.

    About 20 percent thought the State should subpoena the cost documents and require High-Speed Rail Authority officials to testify why the figures were concealed. Approximately 18 percent thought California's high-speed rail should undergo Federal investigation in response to these allegations, given that the project involves the use of Federal funds. A scant 7 percent thought we should keep going forward with high-speed rail and believed the current price tag is a worthwhile investment of public funds. Lastly, 4 percent supported investing in high-speed rail, provided the project stayed within the old constraints, the old prices--the ones they saw on the ballot. So, at best, you see 11 percent that might support high-speed rail and 4 percent that might under the old price, which is nowhere near what was projected.

    People don't like this project, don't trust those advocating for it, and they deserve better than to see their own tax dollars used to lie to them. No new Federal dollars will come from here to help this project be propped up anymore.

    It is time we start prioritizing funding for projects that actually address real problems facing California, such as the current drought. It is time to apply common sense to this situation. We have a State whose economy depends on a sound water supply, yet in the midst of a historic drought, we are still chasing this high-speed rail boondoggle.

    Rather than throwing billions of dollars away, let's get to what people demand and will help our economy and the people of California.


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