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Bill to kill high-speed rail gaining support
March 17, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

A bill that will cut off funding for the state’s high-speed rail project is gaining steam as the Orange City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support Assembly Bill 1455, authored by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point.

AB 1455, the High-Speed Rail Lemon Law, was introduced by Harkey in January and several counties and cities across the state have already voted to support it.

When initially introduced, Peninsula officials also offered support for the legislation including Burlingame Mayor Jerry Deal and Belmont Mayor Dave Warden.

Harkey’s "Lemon Law” would repeal more than $9 billion in available state debt funding for the project. A vote on the legislation is expected in mid-April.

"In spite of the huge taxpayer funded marketing budget for this complex project, the people and their elected officials are searching for the facts and discovering that they were sold a lemon. Already cash strapped and weary of the wasteful financial decisions being made in Sacramento, local governments are now learning they will have to pay a share of the project — even if it never serves their constituents. I encourage everyone to review the facts, not the spin, and send a message to Sacramento to halt this ill-conceived, costly and unnecessary project,” Harkey wrote in a statement Thursday.

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, held a press conference in San Mateo to urge the California High-Speed Rail Authority to fund construction of the two bookends of the system in San Francisco and Los Angeles while starting construction on the project in the Central Valley concurrently. To fund electrification of Caltrain, the rail authority would need to pledge about $750 million that would have to be matched by local sales tax revenue.

Hill said previously that Harkey’s legislation was unnecessary since economic conditions could improve that would make the project easier to fund in the coming years.

The Legislature can decide on its own whether to vote for or against Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to issue $2.6 billion in state bonds later this year to get the project under way in the Central Valley, Hill said.

State voters approved the project by passing Proposition 1A in 2008, which commits about $9.5 billion in bond proceeds to build a high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Already, the cities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano, Orange and Orange, Kings and Shasta counties have voted to support the bill. AB 1455 will also be appearing on several more county and city council agendas over the next few weeks, according to Harkey’s office.

Harkey has been most critical of the escalating price tag for the project that is now estimated to cost more than $100 billion. When voters passed Proposition 1A, the estimated price tag was about $36 billion.

The state is already in debt, Harkey said, and cannot afford to fund the project. She also said voters were "deceived” by the ballot language in Proposition 1A that included questionable ridership and cost projections.


Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.


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