Jerry Brown's Hail Mary Pass for High Speed Rail

California's embattled high speed rail, which appears to be on life support following a Nov. court ruling, will receive funds from the state's carbon cap & trade program in Gov. Brown's budget to be released Friday. But will it make a difference?
January 7, 2014, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Gov. Jerry Brown plans to propose spending millions of dollars in fees paid by carbon producers to aid the state's controversial high-speed rail project," writes political reporter Christopher Cadelago

Brown is expected to include the proposal in the annual budget plan he will release Friday (Jan.10).  Brown has made high-speed rail a priority of his administration, and he suggested two years ago that cap-and-trade revenue, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, would be a future source of funding for the project.

According to the Sacramento Bee's sources, it could be "several hundred million dollars this year."

But the use of cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail could be problematic. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) said in 2012 that while the rail project could eventually help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, benefits would not be seen until after 2020, the year by which California is seeking to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals (according to the law that set that goal, AB 32).

Notwithstanding the possible deathblow of a legal ruling in late November followed by a major setback issued by the Surface Transportation Board, the High Speed Rail Authority is plowing forward, using eminent domain to acquire properties in downtown Fresno, though not without opposition.

Thanks to several factors, including an upturn in the economy and the passage of Brown's signature tax initiative, Proposition 30, in Nov., 2012, the LAO "projected last fall that the state could post a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year."

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Published on Sunday, January 5, 2014 in The Sacramento Bee - Capitol Alert
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