Since I last wrote about the California’s high speed rail project in 2012, there hasn’t been much good news for taxpayers in the Golden State. California is still dealing with insurmountable debt and billions of dollars in new bonds were once again approved in the 2014 November midterms. At least there was one bright spot on the ballot—the passage of Proposition 2, which increases the state’s rainy day fund.
However, the good news was short-lived. This week, Governor Jerry Brown succeeded in breaking ground on his beloved bullet train, a project that was sold to taxpayers back in 2008, when voters barely passed a $9.95 billion bond measure to fund it. Today, total cost estimates for the project range from $68 billion to over $200 billion. Back in 2008, the plan was to connect travelers from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego, but San Diego has since been nixed from the short term plan.
That today’s bullet train blueprint looks vastly different from the 2008 plan is a major cause of concern for taxpayers. The original plan was for investors to cover one-third of the cost, while Governor Brown and his buddies in Sacramento prayed that Congress would pick up another third of the cost. But Congress has already (rightfully) said no, leaving taxpayers with at least two-thirds of the growing tab.
Even the Los Angeles Times has acknowledged the exploding costs of this bait-and-switch move:
Rail officials haven't yet lined up funds needed to complete the initial system over the next 14 years. Construction is starting two years later than the state had promised. Acquisition of private property is going slower than expected. And they have yet to finalize legal agreements with two of the nation's most powerful private freight railroads that are concerned about how a bullet train network will affect their operations.
Still, these are only minor hiccups for Governor Brown, who continues to go all in with taxpayers’ money. Richard Rider, head of the San Diego Tax Fighters, recently spoke with KUSI News in San Diego about his governor’s legacy.
"He's going to have a legacy. It's just not the one he's thinking of. It's going to be rusting rails, non-operational, huge overruns in costs. It's going to be a nightmare from a taxpayer standpoint, but that will be his legacy," Rider explained.
While the Governor may have good intentions with the high speed rail project, it’s ultimately a misguided, expensive effort that is likely to do more harm than good to California’s economy. For those living in the California, remember: it’s never too late to contact your state lawmakers and let them know where you stand. For the rest of us, the bullet train project should serve as a cautionary tale.