More Train-To-Nowhere Funding
Katy Grimes: Despite the state’s raging deficit, plans appear to be moving full speed ahead for the High-Speed train to nowhere.
The announcement of plans to use last year’s budget authority to appropriate more High-Speed Rail funds was sent this week to legislators on the state’s budget and appropriations committees by the California Department of Finance.
The finance department stated in the letter that it wanted to make these changes to the current 2011-12 budget under the authority of the Budget Act of 2010. But some Capitol sources say that the finance department does not have the authority to do this.
The letter was apparently triggered by a request from the High-Speed Rail Authority for an additional $65 million — $32.5 million Rail Bonds and $32.5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, also known as “stimulus” funds.
In the letter signed by Finance Department Chief Deputy Director Michael Cohen, the department claims authority to authorize the expenditure “of up to $121.5 million High-Speed Rail Passenger Bonds and $121.5 ARRA funds in excess of the amount originally appropriated for acquisition.”
But the money referenced in the letter was excess bond issuance for 2010-11, according to a Capitol source The finance department cannot just go ahead and use the money without the Legislature approving and appropriating it formally, under the 2011-12 budget year. Balances can’t just be carried over and then used at the discretion of the finance department.
This appears to be an attempt to sell more bonds before the required issuance of the the High-Speed Rail business plan, due October 14. But the plan release has been delayed. Some Capitol sources say that the rail authority may not even have a business plan yet, leaving the Legislature little time to approve it by January 1, 2012. Completion of the business plan is necessary to begin any rail construction in 2012.
Estimates of a new business plan date of Nov. 1 are circulating.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to eliminate all but $100 million dollars of the $8 billion in federal funding for High Speed Rail the year of 2013 – bad news for California High-Speed Rail. The rail authority has received $3.5 billion in federal funding, and $9.95 billion in a voter-approved state bond measure.
Californians are fed up with continuing talk of High-Speed Rail plans. In a recent poll about High-Speed Rail, 62.4% of the respondents said they would most likely vote to stop the funding for the High Speed Rail project.
The announcement by the finance department of additional funds is for “preparatory acquisition tasks that are required before right-of-way real property acquisitions can occur.” But without a business plan, many are asking how the rail authority can claim to make any future plans for the additional funding – especially another $65 million.
Many in the state are asking the right questions – High-Speed Rail has been exposed as a sham with faulty ridership reports, and spending and accountability issues.
With reports of air travel being down, there is no need. California already has trains – why not just update Amtrack, at a fraction of the cost?
This special interest train is crashing and burning. Is anybody in the Capitol listening?
OCT. 6, 2011
Tags: budget deficit, California budget, California Legislature, Democrats, government, High-Speed Rail Authority, Jerry Brown, Katy Grimes, legislature, regulations, Republicans, tax increases, waste
May 19, 2013