After state legislators swiftly killed a movement by a Southern California lawmaker to stop the high-speed train project, the bill's author substantially altered the legislation, which passed its first hurdle this week.
Assembly Bill 2121, by Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, sought to block all funding from Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion bond voters approved in November 2008 to launch the project.
Sensing the bill would not make it out of its first committee, Harkey agreed to work with Democrats to change the legislation, which was titled "Eliminate funding for high-speed rail" when introduced in February.
Now, the bill would instead require the California High-Speed Rail Authority to submit six-year spending plans and annual financing reports to the Legislature. The documents would need to include any proposed debt and costs associated with the $43 billion project.
Although there has been considerable opposition to the bullet train in some areas — particularly on the Peninsula — Harkey faced an uphill battle from the start with the original version of the bill, in part because it aimed to overturn a voter-approved initiative.
The project is poised to create hundreds of thousands of jobs during this decade at a time when voters are demanding their elected leaders create work. The bill would have also required the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been touting the project and wants construction to
"I have accepted the proposed amendments because they allow for an added level of accountability," Harkey said in a statement. "But the overall issue of funding and the potential for state and local debt remains unchanged. This project could pose a huge risk to the overall solvency of the state."
While the bill had support from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, it was opposed by the California Labor Federation and the California Nurses Association. Caltrain, SamTrans, Santa Clara VTA and the San Mateo County Economic Development Association also sought to defeat it.
The Assembly Committee on Transportation passed the new version of the bill in a 13-0 vote this week. It will now head to the Appropriations Committee.
Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Contact him at 650-348-4324.