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California OKs funding for high-speed rail line

This undated file photo provided by the California High Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's rendering of a high-speed train traveling along the California coast. (AP Photo/California High Speed Rail Authority)
July 7, 2012 12:16:57 AM PDT
California is one step closer to high-speed rail, after the Senate approved billions of dollars in construction funds.

Less than 24 hours ago, the votes were not locked up in the Senate, but behind the scenes arm twisting by the governor himself finally got them to the minimum number of votes necessary to move ahead with the nation's first high-speed rail project even though no one knows where the rest of the money will come from.

"This is the measure that would place the high-speed rail bond back on the ballot," Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, said.

Republicans tried very hard to derail the controversial and expensive $68 billion dollar California High-Speed Rail project. But that was shot down quickly by Democrats, who hold the majority. And it was on to why the Legislature needs to appropriate nearly 5 billion dollars in bond money for the initial phase, which starts a 130-mile segment in the Central Valley, and to improve existing rail systems. The Feds would match with $3 billion.

'What happens if we say no? Where are we? Are we left with a future where transportation investment must be directed toward highways?" Sen. President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said.

The fate of High-Speed Rail was not certain in the Senate. At least ten Democrats were "no" votes or on the fence. State Senator Joe Simitian of Silicon Valley is afraid that voters will say no to raising taxes in November to fund other programs if they vote yes to High Speed. "The only conclusion I can come to today is that this is the wrong plan, in the wrong place at the wrong time," St. Sen. Joe Simitan, D-Palo Alto, said.

Republicans were furious about the priorities this sets. "You simply couldn't find money to not cut education. But you found money for this fiscal train wreck," St. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, said.

In the end, the Senate got exactly the minimum votes needed to pass high-speed rail funding: 21. Critics say the package was loaded up with an extra $2 billion dollars in rail improvements projects in the Bay Area and Los Angeles to change some minds.

The $8 billion funding bill now heads to Governor Brown's desk. Obviously, he's going to sign it because he really wants this project. It may even be part of his legacy. Initially this would mean thousands of jobs for the Central Valley.


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