AND CALIFORNIA IS WHING LIKE A BITCH
Like a shoplifter who acts outraged after being caught, California has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for canceling a $929-million grant to build the statewide high-speed rail system. The feds said the state has no plan or capability to build the bullet train “as originally proposed.”
It’s “California’s money,” Gov. Gavin Newsom declared.
Actually, the $3.5 billion in federal funds committed to the bullet train came with a contract that required specific construction goals and deadlines to be met as a condition of the funding. And as state auditor Elaine Howle told the legislature last year, it’s not happening. Howle warned that the state was at risk of having to pay back the $2.5 billion in federal funds spent so far on the project.
The doomed boondoggle has now been cut back from the planned statewide rail to a Central Valley route between Merced and Bakersfield. Newsom has vowed to get the train running there, even though the projected cost of that segment alone now exceeds $20 billion. So the state is going to court, again, to fight the federal government. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court accuses the Federal Railroad Administration of deciding to cancel the grant “in violation of its own procedures and policies.”
Newsom’s office said the FRA’s “real motive” is to “punish California for opposing President Trump’s border wall.” On February 18, California and 15 other states sued over the president’s declaration of an emergency at the southern border, and the letter terminating the grant agreement arrived on February 19, the same day Trump sent out a tweet saying California “has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion.”
Unfortunately for Newsom, that tweet would pass the test of any fact-checking team in America. “True,” they’d have to admit.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called Newsom’s downsizing of the train’s planned route a “classic bait and switch.” The Federal Railroad Administration sent state officials a 25-page letter filled with the list of California’s violations of the 2010 agreement for federal funds to build high-speed rail. The FRA has rejected as flawed every one of the high-speed rail authority’s budget and funding plans since 2016.
In 2008, California voters approved more than $9 billion in bonds for the construction of a statewide high-speed rail system on the condition that the train would not require a tax increase to build or a public subsidy to operate. Not all of that money has been appropriated, and the rail authority says it will develop funding plans to show the legislature that the train is viable.
Newsom’s newly appointed leadership team at the rail authority says it is bringing in the accounting firm KPMG as well as a German rail company to review the ridership and revenue assumptions in the governor’s scaled-back plan.
We’re looking forward to reading their report on how a $20 billion high-speed train between Merced and Bakersfield can sell enough tickets to operate in the black. It will take more than creative accounting. The rail authority may have to hold a contest. First prize goes to the inventor who can develop a high-speed train engine that runs on red ink.