Doubts about the High Speed Rail Authority’s ability to fund its estimated $68 billion program dominated last week’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee hearing (see the background report in this PDF). Committee Chair Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said he was “somewhat skeptical” about the Authority’s 2014 Draft Business Plan and questioned CAHSRA CEO Jeff Morales on the authority’s reliance on uncertain funding sources.
“You couldn’t get a [small business loan] based on what we’re assuming here,” DeSaulnier told Morales, referring to the high cost estimates and funding prospects in the Business Plan.
DeSaulnier asked all the questions at the informational hearing, since he was the only Committee member who showed up for it. However, he came well prepared, so instead of yet another presentation on how cap-and-trade works, there was a pointed exchange about the funding capabilities of high speed rail.
DeSaulnier warned Morales that the Authority may have a hard time getting the necessary votes in the state legislature to pass the governor’s cap-and-trade expenditure plan, which proposes giving $250 million to high-speed rail from the proceeds of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law, A.B. 32.
“If the legislature does not approve the governor’s allocation of cap-and-trade funds, what do you foresee would be the impact on the high-speed rail program?” DeSaulnier asked Morales.
Morales responded, “The governor’s proposal allows us to move forward with certainty. If we can accelerate the program, it saves money.” Read more…