California Wants Florida’s HSR Money – Unless You’re Jeff Denham
UPDATE: Denham has withdrawn the proposed amendment. Good job, everyone! Original post begins below.
Just as with Wisconsin and Ohio’s HSR stimulus money, which was foolishly rejected by their right-wing governors, California is angling to get some of the $2.4 billion in funds that Florida’s governor foolishly rejected. We won $624 million in redirected funds from WI and OH. If we get a similar amount from Florida, it might just be enough to get tracks to Bakersfield itself. California’s leaders aren’t shy about asking:
“The $2 billion that Florida rejected are more than welcome here,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said.
California. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that all the Florida money be sent here. “It is now clear that California will lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high-speed rail to the rest of the country,” they wrote.
The full text of the letter from Feinstein and Boxer is below:
February 16, 2011
The Honorable Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood,
We are writing to express California’s continued commitment to the President’s high-speed rail initiative and to ask that the $2.4 billion in Federal grants recently returned be redirected to our high-speed rail initiative. We believe this is an opportunity for the Administration to further its investment in the project that demonstrates the greatest potential for success. Awarding these funds to California will advance the President’s goals for high-speed rail, as expressed in the State of the Union.
California is leading the Nation in the development of high-speed rail. As you know, voters in our state have committed over $9 billion in bonds to high-speed rail – a unique level of public support that demonstrates that our state is a reliable, long term partner in this initiative. Combined with Federal grants, we have over $5.5 billion in funds allocated for construction that will begin in 2012. Californians know that these additional federal funds represent over 80,000 new manufacturing, construction, and technology jobs in our state. We are eager to expand our partnership with the Department of Transportation and get to work.
It is now clear that California will lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high speed rail to the rest of the country. We are ready to do so and look forward to working with the Department of Transportation to see the high-speed rail is a success in California, and the entire nation.
United States Senator
United States Senator
The California Labor Federation added their support for redirecting the money here:
In his infinite wisdom, Florida Gov. Rick Scott decided today that his state would reject federal funding for high-speed rail. Well, if Scott doesn’t want the economic and environmental benefits high-speed rail promises, California would be more than happy to take that funding off his hands to spark job creation here.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:
California stands ready to accept Florida’s funding to continue leading the way in realizing President Obama’s bold vision for a national high-speed rail network. By rejecting high-speed rail today, Florida Gov. Rick Scott shrunk from the President’s challenge to embrace a 21st century infrastructure that will solidify our country’s position on the leading edge of global competiveness. Florida’s loss is California’s gain.
A coalition of business, labor and government is working together to make the vision of high-speed rail a reality in the Golden State. The $2 billion Florida rejected could be used immediately in California to break ground on the project and put tens of thousands of people back to work. With unemployment hovering at 12.5%, high-speed rail is just the economic spark our state needs.
High-speed rail would create as many as a half million jobs in California. And the economic benefits wouldn’t stop there. It would also boost small businesses and infuse cash into struggling communities. California has been the national leader on high-speed rail since Day One. And that commitment is the very reason we’re further along in the project than any other state.
Californians have displayed deep commitment to high-speed rail because we understand the economic and environmental benefits this project brings to our state. Voters have already approved a measure to devote nearly $10 billion to high-speed rail in coming years, and California’s commitment to the project has been rewarded with more federal funding than any other state.
California has a reputation as a state of visionaries — for good reason. When we see a challenge, we rise to the occasion. We stand ready to become the first state in the nation to fully realize high-speed rail’s promise.
We know that such strong support has worked in bringing around $4 billion in federal funding to the California HSR project so far. So what might prevent us from getting some more of it via Florida? The only obstacle would appear to be Congressional Republicans, who share the ideological hostility to HSR of their counterparts in the governor’s offices in Madison, Columbus, and Tallahassee.
One Republican who seeks to block federal funding for California high speed rail is California’s own Jeff Denham. Denham was elected last November in the 19th Congressional District, which includes some of the initial HSR segment in Madera County. The HSR project will therefore employ a LOT of Denham’s constituents, who could use the work – the Valley has some of the highest unemployment rates in California.
Apparently Denham wants his constituents to stay unemployed and not have jobs, because he is sponsoring language in the Republicans’ proposed continuing resolution to fund the federal government (which expires in the first week of March) to defund California HSR:
OFFERED BY MR. DENHAM OF CALIFORNIA:
~ the end of the bill (before the title) insert the following new section:
1 SEC. 4002. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for high-speed
2 rail in the State of California, for the California High Speed Rail Authority, or for
3 projects designed to further high speed rail in the State of California
Perhaps you might want to let Congressman Denham know what you think about his effort to kill jobs in his district in the service of a far-right ideological agenda. With the 2012 election coming up, an election where districts won’t be drawn to favor incumbents and where Denham will be vulnerable as a first-termer defending his seat for the first time, you’d think he would be more cautious than this. I’m not quite sure how killing jobs is going to get him re-elected or do anything to help his district. But it would be good to let Denham and his constituents know about this provision and ensure that we block it from becoming law.