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GOP proposal: De-fund high-speed rail project

January 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
State Republican legislators want an end to the high-speed rail project once and for all. Tuesday they introduced a new bill to cut off all funding for the project. Lawmakers have dubbed it the "Lemon Law."

State Republicans say there's a new "Lemon Law," and the new transportation dud is California's High Speed Rail project.

Orange County Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) proposes to halt the sale of nearly $10 billion in voter-approved bonds to help finance the now-$100-billion system.

"The original price tag has tripled. Operating costs are being ignored, and we're relying on a problematic ridership study," said Harkey.

The new proposal to de-fund the 520-mile bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is the latest headache that threatens the project's future. The project promises the economically battered Central Valley lots of jobs this year when the first segment is expected to break ground.

"I think this is a shameful bill. The proposal will essentially take away hundreds of thousands of jobs that are coming to California," said Cesar Diaz, deputy legislative director, State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is one of the authors of high-speed rail. She says the project should move forward because experts from other countries that have high-speed rail are willing to lend their expertise and help California connect high-speed rail to existing rail to bring the price tag down.

"That means that we don't need to spend as much money with grade separations, bridges, viaducts and the like that end up driving the costs up," said Galgiani.

But with $2.7 billion slated for high-speed rail in next year's state budget at a time when Governor Jerry Brown proposes deeper cuts to programs, California's needy don't understand why they aren't a higher priority.

Mary Johnson/Disabled Medi-Cal Recipient:

"The cuts with the disabled and the schools, what is the governor thinking?" said Mary Johnson, a disabled Medi-Cal recipient. "What about this high-speed rail? Can we cut the high-speed rail out?"

Governor Brown says he's forging ahead with high-speed rail and accuses Republicans of playing politics.