Dianne Feinstein Helps Restore $100 Million in Federal HSR Funding
Yesterday a Senate appropriation subcommittee zeroed out high speed rail funding for FY 2012. Seeing this, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin and Frank Lautenberg moved to secure $100 million – “enough to keep the lights on” – for HSR funding:
Three Democrats have assembled a proposal to direct $100 million to President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail program next year after a Senate subcommittee approved legislation without funding for it, said two people familiar with the plan….
The money would “be very helpful to keep things on life support until Congress comes to its senses,” Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group who said he was familiar with the proposal, said in a telephone interview. U.S. PIRG is a Washington-based consumer advocacy group that supports federal spending on high-speed rail service.
HSR advocates across the country, including Californians For High Speed Rail, quickly mobilized to get this funding approved. The funding was approved by the committee on a voice vote this afternoon.
Obviously $100 million is a pretty small amount given the overall need for HSR, both in California and across the country. So does this really help?
I believe that it does – because California HSR has been here before. In 2004 and 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger convinced the legislature to postpone the $10 billion high speed rail bond vote. In 2007, Arnold did worse. He proposed to slash HSR funding to $1 million and wanted to postpone the bond vote to 2010. HSR advocates, including myself and Californians For High Speed Rail, fought to preserve funding and keep the bond vote on schedule. Schwarzenegger the legislature agreed that year to fund the California High Speed Rail Authority with $20 million, and to keep the bond on the 2008 ballot, where it passed.
The moral of the story is clear: HSR funding has its peaks and valleys. It’s a constant struggle to get it and keep it in order to build it. Sometimes we win, as we did in 2008 and 2009. Sometimes we lose, as has happened in Congress in 2011. But if we persist, organize, and never quit, we’ll get HSR funded and built.
So yeah, $100 million isn’t very much. But it’s a political victory nonetheless, showing that support for HSR remains in Congress, and that HSR supporters and advocates haven’t given up in the face of Republican opposition. As long as that fighting spirit remains, we can be confident that when HSR opponents lose control of the House, which may well happen in 2012, federal funding for HSR will flow again.