The Assembly Transportation Committee said “thanks, but no thanks” to A.B. 6, legislation by a Santa Clarita Republican that would give voters the chance to overturn $8 billion in bonds meant to fund California High Speed Rail. A.B. 6 was defeated by an unofficial vote of 7-4 (which will likely be 11-5 when the official tally is released.)
Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) introduced the legislation in hopes of rerouting the funding approved by voters in 2008 for high-speed rail to schools instead. The wastefulness of spending on high-speed rail has been an article of faith for Republicans, with governors in Wisconsin and Florida actually returning federal funding for bullet train projects.
With Governor Jerry Brown championing the project, conservatives have taken to mocking the “Browndoggle” even though campaigning against high-speed rail has not proven to be an electoral winner in the Golden State.
So rather than just attacking high speed rail, Wilk’s argument wasn’t just that high-speed rail is a waste, but that the money could be better spent on schools. Wilk made that argument this weekend in the Sacramento Bee.
I believe there is a better use of the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail. California is in dire need of school facility funding. The last statewide school bond was passed in 2006; only $187 million remains and of that, $142 million is earmarked for seismic repair.
According to the Office of Public School Construction, future need for K-12 new construction and modernization is estimated at more than $16 billion. These bond funds not only are critical to schools, they are beneficial to the economy and will generate thousands of construction-related jobs.