Legislative Analyst Opposes All State Spending As Being “Highly Speculative”
That headline is merely the logical extension of today’s report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommending that the Legislature follow the lead of right-wing states like Wisconsin and Florida and throw away $3.5 billion in federal stimulus money by refusing to fund high speed rail construction this year. The reason the LAO gives, that “funding for the project remains highly speculative” given federal uncertainties, suggests a stunning level of ignorance of what is actually going on in Congress right now. If the LAO’s logic were applied to all state funding decisions, their recommendation would be that the Legislature should stop funding all state programs due to federal uncertainty.
We find that HSRA has not provided sufficient detail and justification to the Legislature regarding its plan to build a high–speed train system. Specifically, funding for the project remains highly speculative and important details have not been sorted out. We recommend the Legislature not approve the Governor’s various budget proposals to provide additional funding for the project. However, we recommend that some minimal funding be provided to continue planning efforts that are currently underway. Alternatively, we recognize that the Legislature may choose to go forward with the project at this time. If so, we recommend the Legislature take a series of steps to increase the chance of the project being successfully completed.
Of course, the LAO does not explain that the people of California already told the Legislature they want this train built. They do not examine the impact of sky-high gas prices on economic activity. They do not examine the impact of HSR construction on the state’s economy, job creation, or tax revenues. They do not examine the long-term economic benefits of HSR through the green dividend.
Instead the LAO claims that because Republicans in Congress oppose HSR and have therefore made federal HSR funding “highly speculative” and therefore uncertain, the entire project is a bad idea and should not be funded. If that principle were applied to other transportation projects, most of which move forward before all federal funding is identified or secured, nothing would ever get built in California again.
More importantly, if that principle were applied across state government, nothing at all would be funded again. Congressional Republicans are pledging massive cuts to almost all federally funded programs, from health care to schools to transportation and much more. Most programs funded in the state budget include significant levels of federal funding, without which the state would almost certainly be unable to continue providing that particular program. The LAO, which has been opposed to the HSR project for many years now, wants legislators to believe that it’s just HSR that faces uncertain prospects in Washington DC. But anyone who’s been paying any attention to national politics knows the problem is much, much broader.
The LAO has never been a supporter of the high speed rail project. Legislators would do well to ignore its flawed conclusions and press onward with a project that is essential to prosperity in the 21st century.