Meg Whitman Criticizes High Speed Rail
I can’t say this is an unexpected development, given her right-wing politics and her residency in Atherton, but Meg Whitman criticized the HSR project yesterday in a short statement emailed to the Sacramento Bee:
“Meg believes the state cannot afford the costs associated with high-speed rail due to our current fiscal crisis,” said the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s spokeswoman Sarah Pompei in an e-mailed statement.
That’s the entire statement, so there’s not much else to analyze here, but I think it says all we need to know. Whitman is embracing a Hooverite approach to the state’s crisis, believing that we should spend less money now even though doing so would crush our hopes of economic recovery. Whitman apparently thinks we should not have built the bay bridges, Shasta Dam, or the Central Valley water project during the Depression.
Further, this statement indicates a lack of awareness on the part of the Whitman campaign about HSR and state finances. California voters already approved $10 billion in bonds for the project. We’re not going to sell all $10 billion tomorrow, and what we do sell will create economic activity and generate tax revenues that will help pay the borrowing costs (which are fairly low even with the state’s ongoing budget crisis). The rest of the construction cost will not be coming out of the state budget, and when we get the federal contribution – which we will get, this current fit of Hooverism by Congress notwithstanding – California will get a massive economic stimulus that adds revenue to our state budget without any additional cost.
Whitman also ignores the recent US Conference of Mayors report that indicated Los Angeles alone would receive an economist boost of nearly $10 billion from the construction and operation of high speed rail. Whitman, a billionaire, apparently believes that California doesn’t really need that kind of economic stimulus.
Whitman is a clever politician who is unlikely to come out and oppose HSR itself. She’s likely to stick to this kind of criticism, the same one made by her Republican primary opponent Steve Poizner, that somehow California cannot afford to build it right now. As we’ve been arguing on this blog for two years, the reverse is true: California cannot afford to not build high speed rail. Our economic recovery and future prosperity depend on it.