The media narrative on Prop 1A is beginning to solidify - neat idea but omg the cost! This report from KCBS radio in San Francisco is a good example:
Proposition 1A represents a $10 billion state investment in a high-speed rail system and the timing couldn't be better.
Frustration with air travel, the high cost of gasoline and global warming have attracted environmental and transit advocates, municipalities and local business groups....
Despite the numerous green benefits, some local governments and the California Chamber of Commerce argue that funding such an expensive project would be irresponsible given the current budget situation.
“Having California in the very precarious budgetary situation we find ourselves… now is clearly not the time to be taking on this inordinate amount of debt,” said Jon Coupal, a spokesman for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
KCBS is actually better than some other media reports we've seen over the last few months about conveying to listeners the major environmental benefits of high speed rail, as well as the impact on fuel costs and the superior comfort of train travel. But they give Jon Coupal, head of the far-right Howard Jarvis Association, air time to make his false claims that Prop 1A would exacerbate our state's budget crisis. That's to be expected given the media's abandonment of objectivity for "he said, she said" stenography. So we're going to have to counter his claims often between now and November.
First, California can afford Prop 1A. It will NOT make our budget deficit worse - the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported that the budget can handle the impact of the bonds. Also consider that the bond money won't be spent all at once, but will ramp up as construction gets going, and will likely reach a peak after 2012, when the state's annual bond payments drop significantly.
Second, the state budget is separate from Prop 1A. The deficit is NOT a product of natural causes but of a failed budgeting process. Next year, and particularly in 2010, there will be a series of moves to finally fix that budget, including an effort to eliminate the 2/3 rule and a total reassessment of how the state raises money. However the state chooses to solve the budget deficit doesn't change the fact that Prop 1A will not break the bank, not by any means.
Finally the "omg this will cost billions!" argument ignores the fact that HSR is actually a savings over all the alternatives. The cost of doing nothing is NOT zero - it'll cost between $80 and $150 billion to expand freeways and airports, and that doesn't include the impact to consumers, the economy, and yes the state budget of higher fuel prices. Nor does it include the amount of money left on the table by rejecting the green dividend.
High speed rail will save California billions of dollars. It'd be nice if the media would start reporting that as well.