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Shouldn't We Really Vote Again?

We would suggest, as others do below, that since this isn't what we voted for in 2008 that we get a chance to vote again

Nov 03, 2011


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Denis Prosperi
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Shouldn't We Really Vote Again?

When California voters approved high-speed rail in 2008 we were sold a $43 billion project with pie-in-the sky ridership numbers.  It has been apparent for a long time that everything we were told was fantasy (more brutal people would simply call it a lie).  Now we have new numbers that add $55 billion to the $43 billion original cost and new ridership models that are drastically lower.  So, now what?  We would suggest, as others do below, that since this isn't what we voted for in 2008 that we get a chance to vote again on the new numbers.  By the way, we would suggest that the new numbers won't be the final numbers.  Anyone want to bet on how much higher these estimates can go? 


GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa wants to send California's high-speed rail project back to the ballot in light of revised cost estimates.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority today released a revised business plan projecting that the total cost of the proposed bullet train could be $98.5 billion over 20 years, far exceeding previous estimates.

LaMalfa, a vocal critic of the project, blasted the authority's earlier cost projections and pledges for federal and private dollars for the project, saying authority members and supporters "have known all along that these targets would not be met."

The Richvale Republican said he plans to introduce legislation that would ask California voters to reconsider the $9 billion in bonds approved for the project in 2008.

"The voters were deceived in the original go-around with highly optimistic ridership and cost numbers that have not been born out," LaMalfa said in an interview, adding that the larger figures ""should have been in front of the voters to begin with so they would have the truth."

LaMalfa also plans to push Senate Bill 22, legislation he introduced last year to freeze all spending on the rail line. While that bill failed this year to make it to a full floor vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, LaMalfa said he believes public outrage over the latest figures will give both of his measures a better shot when the legislators return to work in January.

"The more people that learn about this, the more pressure they'll put on the Legislature to say we'd rather have money for cops, for schools, for things that would actually create jobs," he said.

New High Speed Rail Cost Estimate Means Voters Should Get A Re-Vote

Today, according to the Sacramento Bee, the California High Speed Rail Authority will formally announce that the estimated cost to construct a HSR system in California was not the already outrageous $43 billion that had previously been publicly stated by the Authority — instead a new report will show that the costs are $98.5 million — over twice the original amount!
If you need a reminder about why moving forward with this project is a bad idea, let me draw your attention to an opinion piece that ran earlier this year in the Washington Post (the Post is not exactly a repository for right-wing thought, I might add).

Back in 2008, when the measure to approve the $9 billion borrowing measure for HSR was on the ballot, the Reason Foundation released a study in which they made it clear that the cost estimates being used by proponents of a HSR system were way too low. Ironically, though, even Reason was too conservative in its estimates of costs — “With the high costs of building in California and the history of cost overruns on rail projects, the final price tag for the complete high-speed rail system will actually be $65 to $81 billion…”

California voters barely approved massive bonded indebtedness back in 2008 — the vote was 52.7% to 47.3%. And, of course, the 2008 election was right before the nation would slide into a pretty steep recession. I have no doubt that even if the original projections for the cost of a HSR system hadn’t changed, that a 2012 vote to authorize $9 billion in bonds to help finance the project would be defeated by the voters. But with the news today of the massively increased costs, I think such a measure would go down in a landslide.

That having been said, I don’t think we should have to wonder what the voters would do — instead, I think that we should actually ask them. The California legislature should actually place a repeal of the bonds on the ballot for next year, and let the voters stick a fork in this terrible public policy endeavor that we simply cannot afford.

More Stories:  More grim news on $99 billion high-speed rail plan, as showdown looms Californians suffering from a massive case of "sticker shock" over the new $99 billion price tag for the state's bullet train project got some more unsettling details Tuesday: The high-speed trains will attract fewer riders and less revenue than originally promised. And more than half of the money needed to build the rail line would come from federal funding that currently doesn't exist. Mike Rosenberg and Steven Harmon in the San Jose MercuryMichael Cabanatuan in the San Francisco Chronicle Ralph Vartabedian, Dan Weikel and Richard Simon in the Los Angeles Times David Siders in the Sacramento Bee JULIET WILLIAMS AP  



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