In an effort to deal with California's spiraling unemployment rate, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state's two senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, sent a letter Monday to President Obama urging funding of the state's high-speed rail project and improvements in its intercity rail service.
They urged Obama to fund the projects through federal stimulus funds, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"With unemployment in California reaching 12.5 percent – the highest unemployment rate in nearly 70 years – the impact of providing 130,000 construction-related jobs statewide cannot be understated," the letter said.
As talk ramps up of a "second stimulus" in the form of a job creation bill, and as the jobs crisis continues to worsen, high speed rail funding becomes all that much more important to California and the nation's economic recovery. California simply cannot have recovery without jobs in sustainable infrastructure, and we aren't going to have a long-lasting recovery if we don't start moving away from oil dependence. And the nation as a whole cannot have meaningful economic recovery if California, a major part of the national economy, is lagging behind and mired in high unemployment.
Given that over $50 billion in HSR funding applications were submitted to the FRA for only $8 billion in available funds - all of it for projects meeting the federal guidelines of being "shovel ready" by September 2012 - the Obama Administration and the Congress ought to strongly consider fully funding every HSR application as part of its job creation efforts. There's no reason states should be fighting against each other for that money, since many of the states applying have significant job creation needs of their own.
UPDATE: The complete letter:
November 23, 2009
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write in strong support of California’s applications for high-speed and intercity rail funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). California has led the nation in its commitment to creating a statewide high-speed rail system.
Our state has been a leader and innovator in addressing environmental and transportation challenges on a national level. Last November, California voters approved nearly $9 billion in state bonds for high-speed rail construction, far outpacing other states’ efforts to secure local and state funding for these projects. California has completed design and planning for the nearly 800-mile system and made significant progress on the environmental review, making our state uniquely qualified to employ federal funding quickly.
California’s high-speed rail applications have broad support across the state, with backing from leading business, environmental and labor leaders. The California Chamber of Commerce, the Labor Federation of California and the Sierra Club have all endorsed California’s applications for funding. The success of California’s high-speed rail system is enormously important to our state. High-speed rail will help ease congestion and improve air quality. With unemployment in California reaching 12.5 percent – the highest unemployment rate in nearly 70 years – the impact of providing 130,000 construction-related jobs statewide cannot be understated.
We appreciate your attention to the needs of California and thank you for your commitment to this important issue. We stand ready to work with your administration in the coming years to ensure that high-speed rail has the resources necessary to continue to be a national priority.
Good framing, good letter. Kudos to all three for writing this.