California Governor Jerry Brown reaffirmed support for a $98.5 billion high-speed passenger rail system and a $12 billion effort to improve the most populous state’s water supply.
California is “on the mend” after years of fiscal distress and needs the projects to continue to grow, Brown said today in his State of the State message in the state capital, Sacramento.
“Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking,” Brown said of the proposed 800-mile rail network connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego. “I understand that feeling but I don’t share it, because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here.”
Brown, 73, said he plans to move ahead with a November ballot measure to temporarily raise sales levies and boost income taxes on people who make $250,000 a year or more. He’s bypassing Republican opposition in the Legislature by putting the issue before voters.
The governor focused his address on proposals for bullet trains running as fast as 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) and restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the source of drinking water for much of California.
Brown asked lawmakers to complete the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which is intended to protect endangered species southeast of San Francisco and to provide a new canal system for water bound for Southern California. The state legislative analyst said in October that the canal’s cost may exceed $12 billion.
“This is an enormous project,” Brown said. “It will ensure water for 25 million Californians and for millions of acres of farmland as well as 100,000 acres of new habitat for spawning fish and other wildlife.”
State Senator Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat whose district includes four of the five Delta counties, said the plan would eliminate 100,000 acres of farmland and cost too much.
“I look forward to working with the governor and others on developing an affordable and realistic solution that all Californians can support,” Wolk said in a statement.
Brown praised the high-speed rail project as a bold plan that could be under construction by year-end. He made no reference to the resignations last week of the chief executive officer and board chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency in charge of the train project. Their departures followed a review panel’s finding that the project lacks a “feasible” business plan.
Brown likened critics of the train project to skeptics who opposed earlier public-works projects such as the interstate highway system and the Panama Canal.
“The critics were wrong then and they’re wrong now,” Brown said.
California is the only state working toward 220-mph passenger service. Since 2009, the federal government granted California $3.5 billion of its $10.1 billion for faster intercity rail systems. California pressed ahead even as Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin scrapped plans for high-speed trains.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority more than doubled the estimated cost of the project in November, to $98.5 billion from $43 billion. Two months later, a panel sponsored by the state Legislature advised against selling bonds for the system, saying it lacks a long-term funding plan.
Voters in 2008 approved the sale of $9.95 billion in bonds to help finance the train, most of which haven’t been sold.
The governor also urged lawmakers to act quickly on his proposed measures to reduce California’s pension-funding gap by raising retirement ages and putting new workers into hybrid plans in which not all of their retirement income is guaranteed.
Courtesy of Media Group
Courtesy of Media Group