We keep hearing from the HSR deniers that because of the financial crisis we shouldn't approve Prop 1A. For several days running we've demolished that ridiculous thinking. But as we watch what is going on in Washington, DC we can see just how self-destructive their arguments are.
Momentum is building in Congress for a new economic stimulus package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for a new stimulus that would accomplish the following goals:
money for infrastructure projects, aid to cash-strapped states, an extension of unemployment benefits and perhaps another round of tax rebates or tax cuts to boost consumer spending.
Pelosi wants to help ease California's budget crisis, something Barack Obama has proposed as well. That should help cut down on the number of people who claim, falsely, that California's budget troubles should lead us to reject Prop 1A.
With the budget deficit out of the way we can then focus on the infrastructure stimulus aspect. We must keep in mind that the federal government no longer gives money away. Instead you have to provide a state-level match to receive transit money. No local match, no money.
California's high-speed rail project, with its detailed construction plan and with a $10 billion state match, with the potential to create 160,000 jobs over the next few years, would likely rank pretty high on the list of projects Congress would be interested in funding. The fact that the northern terminus would be in the core of the home district of the Speaker of the House, and that two of the most powerful Senators - Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer - hail from California would also boost our chances.
And of course, both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have repeatedly expressed their support of high speed rail.
Finally, the US Senate has been ready to step up on high speed rail, with Republican Senator Johnny Isakson joining Democratic Senator John Kerry to propose several billion dollars be spent on high speed rail.
But if we reject Prop 1A, those billions - likely between $10 and $20 billion - will go elsewhere. Senator Isakson wants to spend it on HSR connecting Birmingham, Alabama to Washington, DC via Atlanta and Charlotte. Texas has revived its HSR plan and the Midwest has its own HSR plans. That money is NOT coming to California if we reject Prop 1A. It's just not. Without a local match there is no incentive at all for Congress to drop a dime on HSR here.
With federal HSR money committed to other states that's going to set back our own HSR project by about a decade at best. Those who claim we should vote no on Prop 1A to get a better HSR plan are either misleading you or aren't aware of the facts. For California, it really is now or never.
The choice is clear: follow the new Hoovers and reject Prop 1A, or follow the successful path FDR charted and approve Prop 1A.