Wednesday, July 23, 2008
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Voters Should Reject Rail Bond Boondoggle
By JON COUPAL
Few proposals on the November ballot make as little sense as Prop. 1, the so-called High Speed Rail initiative. Why is Prop. 1 so bad? Let’s count the ways: First, Prop. 1 is a boondoggle that will cost taxpayers nearly $20 billion dollars in principal and interest. Taxpayers will foot this bill — it’s not “free money.” According to the measure (Article 3, Section 2704.10) “... the full faith and credit of the state of California is hereby pledged for the punctual payment of both principal of, and interest on, the bonds ... .” This measure will take $20 billion dollars out of the general fund over the life of the bonds. That’s over $2,000 for an average family of four! Second, California can’t afford higher budget deficits.
With our budget crisis, billions in red ink, pending cuts to health care, the poor, parks and schools, now is not the time to add another $20 billion in state debt and interest. The state already has over $100 billion in voter approved bonds and our bond rating is already among the worst in the nation and this could lower it even further.
Third, there are much better uses for taxpayer dollars. California has higher priorities than this $20 billion boondoggle. What would $20 billion buy?
•22,000 new teachers, firefighters or law enforcement personnel for 10 years.
•Health care for all children in the state for many years.
•Update and improve California’s water system to provide a reliable supply of safe, clean water.
•Upgrade and expand existing transportation systems including roads and transit throughout California, which would really reduce traffic and emissions.
Fourth, there is no accountability in Prop. 1. Politicians and bureaucrats will control the money.
There is not one citizen member on the new “finance committee.” They are all politicians and bureaucrats.
There are no reporting requirements so the public can see how the money is spent.
No independent, outside audit is required.
Fifth, As bad as Prop. 1 is, it still would be only a fraction of the cost of the entire project — a blank check for more government waste. The total cost is estimated to be over $40 billion and some experts expect it to reach $100 billion ($10,000 for the average family of four).
Section 1(d) says the bond funds are “. . . intended to encourage the federal government and the private sector to make significant contribution toward the construction . . .” Note thet word “encouraged” — that’s bureaucratic language for “we will spend taxpayer money regardless of whether we ever get a penny from the private sector or the federal government.” In fact, $58 million in taxpayer money has already been spent on this project and not one foot of track has been laid. Now they want us to trust them with $10 billion more.
Sixth, Prop 1 reflects the worst kind of special interest promotions. The Association for California High Speed Trains is promoting this boondoggle. Their Board represents out-of-state special interests (France, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York City, Texas and Illinois), many of whom stand to make millions if this measure passes.
Finally, even if one thinks that high speed rail projects hold promise for the future, Prop. 1’s plan is still only half-baked.
Indeed, even though the language of Prop. 1 is set for the November ballot, there is a bill currently pending in the Legislature that proponents are trying to jam through which would alter the original plan in many substantive areas.
Prop. 1 is simply not ready for prime time.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company