Democratic Legislators Obstruct Funding for California High Speed Rail

Voters approved a $9.9 billion bond for the California High Speed Rail project in 2008. State legislators would like that money to be spent in other ways in 2021.

September 10, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A showdown between Democratic state legislators and the Democratic governor of California could lead to layoffs and delays for the California High Speed Rail project in 2022.

"Top Democrats withheld billions of dollars in funding Gov. Gavin Newsom sought for the state’s high-speed rail line in the final days of this year’s legislative session, threatening construction delays and layoffs unless they come to a deal in early 2022," reports David Lightman. The state budget adopted at the end of the year's legislative session culminates a debate covered by Planetizen earlier this summer.

According to Lightman, Governor Newsom requested $4.2 billion, the total left from $9.9 billion in bond funding approved by voters in 2008, but "Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and other Democrats have argued for directing the money to other urban transportation projects."

State officials say that project can proceed without the funding—"At the end of last week, there were 866 daily workers on the [California High Speed Rail Authority’s] 35 active construction sites in the Central Valley"—but that work will have to slow by mid-2022 without a fresh infusion of cash.

Two other sources of funding could soon be delivered to the project—state money from cap-and-trade auctions, which resulted in $643.3 million for the project already this year, and money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has yet to be voted into law by Congress.

Update: Joe Linton writes an article providing context on, and critiquing, Speaker Rendon and Assemblymember Laura Friedman's (D-Burbank) opposition to the project, as manifested this week with the state budget news reported above.

Thursday, September 9, 2021 in Sacramento Bee


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