A Good Year for California HSR Gets Even Better

Nov 7th, 2012 | Posted by

High speed rail wasn’t on the ballot last night, but it still came out a winner. President Barack Obama cruised to re-election, ensuring that there will be four more years of support for high speed rail from the White House. Democrats actually gained seats in the US Senate, including progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. Democrats did not retake the US House, but many California Republicans went down to defeat, though sadly Jeff Denham wasn’t among them.

In California the news was even better. Democrats appear to have won a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature. That eliminates the last vestige of power for Republicans and conservatives, ensuring that Democrats alone will govern California for at least the next two years. And that means Republicans have no leverage at all to undermine the high speed rail project.

Best of all, Prop 30 passed, by a larger margin than most people predicted – currently at 54% yes. Californians not only embraced new revenues to save schools, they rejected the right-wing argument trying to link Prop 30 to HSR in an effort to kill them both.

High speed rail had a good night, if indirectly. The real winner was Governor Jerry Brown. He doesn’t like to talk about things like “legacy” but 2012 has witnessed the redemption of some of Brown’s biggest failures from his first tour as governor in the 1970s and early 1980s. He got the high speed rail project through the legislature nearly 30 years after the legislature killed HSR the first time. And he has finally stopped the tax revolt that began when he was governor and very nearly destroyed the state in the process.

There’s still a lot of work ahead, both to revive California’s finances and to finish the high speed rail project. Last night’s election results will make both of those tasks a bit easier.

  1. synonymouse
    Nov 7th, 2012 at 17:57



    VBobier Reply:

    The port workers clearly didn’t do a good job, they need more training or more qualified personnel & better supervisors.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Now that the Democratic Party has secured its supermajority they can push thru the Peripheral Tunnel to send NorCal water to build another LA at Palmdale and tax NorCal to pay for it. I think in China they make the family of the condemned pay for the bullet used in the execution. That sounds about right for Moonbeam and Villa.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    when did people in southern California stop paying taxes?

    synonymouse Reply:

    They can construct the tax in such a way it affects the Bay Area much more, say a tax on high tech. Or refund to LA, say a subsidy to Hollywood interests.

    LA will eventually move on Hetch-Hetchy. All they have to do is claim in court that the Raker Act is discriminatory, unfair, or even unconstitutional and prevail upon some of their judges to uphold the demand that Hetch Hetchy water belongs to them as well.

    Any outrage is possible now that Moonbeam is Villa’s running dog.

    joe Reply:

    Hide all sharp objects.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Please, just who or what is going to stop the supermajority from doing whatever they want? Moonbeam? He is the property of the teachers’ union.

    Power corrupts and it won’t take long. Angels fear to tread in the Statehouse.

    Who is going to stop PB at Tehachapi? Certainly not Sheldon Adelson – he is going to get something after all for all the millions he gave the GOP. TehaVegaSkyRail to bring California welfare and social security checks right to the Venetian.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    I would hope common sense. One mis-step and republicans will pour in in protest and we will be back to the wallflower dance. the democrats have NO REASON to raise any more taxes since we just did it to ourselves. If they want to stay in power, they better live within their own means.


    Nathanael Reply:

    I would expect an oil severance / extraction tax — the sort which most oil-producing states such as Texas have, but which California doesn’t have — to be passed quite quickly. I wouldn’t expect the state legislature to pass any OTHER taxes. The only reason California doesn’ t have an oil severance tax is that the Republicans are bought and paid for by the oil companies.

    That would provide a margin of breathing room in the budget and allow for the elimination of various fees which have been introduced over the last 30 years.

    joe Reply:

    WSJ details the horrors: Modernized infrastructure, eliminating tax loopholes for corporate owned property.

    The state has $73 billion in outstanding bonds for capital projects and $33 billion in voter-authorized bonds that the state hasn’t sold in part because it can’t afford higher debt payments. Unissued bonds include $9.5 billion for a bullet train, which will require $50 billion to $90 billion more to complete. Sacramento will also need more money to support an $11 billion bond to retrofit the state’s water system, which is planned for the 2014 ballot.

    With no GOP restraint, liberals can now raise taxes to pay for all this. They’ll probably start by repealing Proposition 13’s tax cap for commercial property. Democrats in the Assembly held hearings on the idea this spring. Then they’ll try to make it easier for cities to raise taxes.

    The greens want an oil severance tax. Other Democrats want to extend the sales tax to services, supposedly in return for a lower rate, but don’t expect any “reform” to be revenue neutral. Look for huge union pay raises and higher pension benefits.

    The silver lining here is that Americans will be able to see the modern liberal-union state in all its raw ambition.

    Yes, a State that functions, updates its infrastructure and pays its bills.

    nslander Reply:

    Well, syon, the good news is you are not paranoid. Report to your nearest Teamster Hall or Planned Parenthood where you and other anti HSR knee-jerks can be interned at a re-purposed Manzanar. We’ve suffered your nonsense for far too long.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Synonymous: As a person receiving social security, I object to you implying that welfare and social security checks are similar. I get a social security check because I worked and paid into the social security fund for over thirty years. I’m not getting social security as a government handout – it’s a contractual monthly payment entirely independent of my financial status. It’s not a payout for “victims” or “slackers” as your last Presidential candidate implied. And frankly, sir, it’s none of your damned business what or where I spend my money.

    The reason the Democrats are the majority in Sacramento is because people like you are sadly out-of-touch with real life. Go live in Idaho.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I get a federal pension check myself, so if I drop some money at the casino I am doing pretty much the same thing. Don’t get your underwear all in a bunch.

    The point is people of humble means – be it by pension, social security or some entitlement – should drop their gambling money in California. It is downright traitorous to spend our funds on a transport scheme to Vegas.

    And that is exactly the purpose of Prop 30 – to create a slush fund for the patronage machine tg dole out. Now that the Democratic Party has an ever-growing and inviolate dominance over California government who is going to stop them from any excess? Moonbeam has shown his true colors and his true allegiances by firing Van Ark.

    For certain Brown will divert Prop 30 money to building TehaVegaSkyRail and Reid, Adelson and Wynn will be encouraging him all along the way.

    I hope someone like CAARD who goes to the CHSRA meetings will have the temerity to put the question to PG&E Richard whether the Tehachapi mountain crossing will and/ or would be designed to facilitate a conversion to freight in case of project failure and liquidation. The degree of vehemence of the response should be very revealing.

    California of the day after tomorrow:


    I anticipate another military junta coup d’etat in Greece.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just because you are greedy and rapacious doesn’t mean everybody else is.

  2. Reedman
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 09:31

    The presumption is that more money will make for better HSR. That isn’t necessarily true.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Too little money will definitely make for worse HSR (and worse everything else), however.

    The one revenue change which I expect form the 2/3 majorities is an oil severance tax, such as Texas and pretty much every other oil producing state has.

    VBobier Reply:

    I sure wouldn’t object, but then I’m not an oilman… And California sure could use the income…

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Moral hazard – we would want to drill more!

    Nathanael Reply:

    True, true, and a point I haven’t thought about much! I wonder if the lack of a severance tax is why NY was able to hold back the hydrofrackers for so long.

    But I don’t think so, since PA has very little in the way of oil extraction taxes and the frackers have destroyed rural Pennsylvania.

  3. Mike
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 10:06

    I’d say it was an “okay” night for HSR. To the extent that the No on 30 folks tried to harness outrage about HSR, they didn’t prevail. So I guess one could claim that this demonstrates that Californians aren’t actually outraged about HSR. It doesn’t, though, do much to demonstrate that they’re enthusiastic about it either.

    Democratic 2/3 control of the Legislature is a big deal, but it doesn’t really have any special relevance to HSR. Prop 1A and cap n trade money only needs a majority vote for appropriation. And it’s not like the Legislature are going to use their 2/3 control to enact any new taxes just for HSR.

    HSR didn’t appear in the presidential race, though it’s certainly good that we continue to have a President who supports HSR even if he’s demonstrated no willingness or ability to fight Congress for it.

    And speaking of Congress, it’s hard to say that it was a good night for HSR when the GOP retains control of the House. That’s the main obstacle and until it changes, HSR is in a holding pattern.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    The 2010 election cycle was a fluke getting so many democrats out to make room for the “T”party.

    If the republicans think obtructionism will save them, more repub seats will turn back democratic until they lose power. It might take an election or two, but it will happen. I sure hope the repubs try to pull the USA out from under the bus, the same bus they threw us under in the first place.


    joe Reply:

    Previously CA voted for HSR’s Prop 1A
    All major offices in CA are held by HSR supporters – Gov on down so 2010 was okay for HSR in CA.

    In Nov 2012:
    CA rejected Prop 30 attacks on HSR
    CA elected a state legislature super-majoity for the political party that supported HSR and CA overwhelmingly rejected HSR opponent candidates.
    CA re-elected a Senator and sends to DC a Congressional caucus that supports HSR
    CA re-elected the House Minority Leader who is a vocal and active HSR advocate.
    There are 2 additional Senators supporting the Senate Leader who is an ardent HSR supporter.
    CA sent all its electoral votes to the candidate who made HSR a signature issue.

    It was a fantastic night for HSR.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, the other side didn’t know what hit them on the 6th, now if they’d watched a Geico Commercial with a Road Runner and a Coyote in it, they might have had an idea…

  4. J Baloun
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 10:12

    Commute traffic is gradually getting heavier on local freeways and streets between 94025 and 94306. It looks like the recovery is picking up speed. We are definitely more than back to dotcom boom levels considering many freeway interchanges are improved since 2000. Then there is the line of cars coming to I5 in 13 or 14 days. Hundreds of miles of freeway across the country with lines of cars headed to thanksgiving dinner.

    More traffic is unavoidable until we move to whatever comes after cars. In 10 years we will wonder why we even debated whether to build passenger rail and why we wasted so much time before getting on with it.

  5. Peter
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 13:22

    Has anyone else heard about this? Joe Lieberman’s “Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act of 2012” would strip the independence away from independent agencies like the NLRB, NRC, EPA, etc., and require them to submit their proposed rules to the White House for approval.

    I just emailed both my Senators on this issue, requesting they oppose this bill.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, copy-and-pasted from my class website, meant to change “both my Senators” to “Boxer and Feinstein”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why doesn’t Joe just come out and say he’s a Republican?

    joe Reply:

    He’s a Republican!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He’s an Independent. Has been since he lost the Democratic primary.

    Alan F Reply:

    Senator Lieberman did not run for re-election and is retiring, so he will be out of the Senate at the end of the year or whenever the lame duck session wraps up. With the emphasis on dealing with the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts, the “fiscal cliff”, sequestration, and trying to reach a deal on taxes, it is unlikely that other bills will be given any consideration. Probably a bill that Lieberman knew would go nowhere, but he submitted it to score political points.

    Congressman Murphy (D) beat Linda McMahan (R) in the CT Senate election on Tuesday for Lieberman’s seat, although McMahan spent $100 million of her own money on 2 consecutive Senate races and lost both of them. Not a very good return on investment.

    joe Reply:

    Joe Lieberman, lost the Dem primary in 2006 and ran as “Connecticut for Lieberman Party” candidate. He won in the general election and knew he couldn’t get re-elected in 2012 as a spoiler for the GOP.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Here’s where Prop 30 money is really going:


    Do they have an operation for intactivists? How about virgins reconstructed? Supermajority in action.

    VBobier Reply:

    Barf, Prop 30 passed Syno, drop it. Besides no one thinks FAUX is respectable, outside of some old loonies…

    joe Reply:

    Fox News will make a killing selling their snake oil to 20-30% of the population.
    “You can fool some of the people all of the time.”

    VBobier Reply:

    Nope, sounds like a repeat of Brown vs Megg(the last Governors race for CA), She spent about $100 Million too, total waste on Her part…

    joe Reply:

    She’s a mark. They scammed her out of 100M stroking her ego and selling her advice and ads while skimming off their cut from every purchase.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m beginning to suspect that Romney was a mark too.

    There’s no honor amongst thieves; Republican scam artists will happily scam other Republicans.


  6. calwatch
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 20:57

    The one race where the Republican tried to explicitly hang high speed rail on the Democrat, SD-31, the Democrat won by seven points. Major General Richard Roth was derided for pushing for a “bullet train through Fresno”… which really seemed to be the main line of attack by Assemblyman Jeff Miller. The funny thing is that Roth was skeptical of high speed rail, answering a question by the local newspaper with “If we are forced to accept the high speed rail…” Here’s some attack ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=avtEGD_VaAk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4quDTyEbM48&feature=plcp

  7. JJJ
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 21:24

    Thats three elections in a row where voters say YES to HSR:

    2008 – obvious vote
    2010 – vote for the governor candidate that was strongly for HSR, gop loses every statewide seat they were running for, all opposing HSR
    2012 – Further kick out the party obstructing HSR, vote for higher taxes (dont forget it wasnt just 30, 39 passed too)

    Being anti HSR has been as fruitful for republicans as their positions nationwide on illegal immigrations (over 60% approve of a path), their position on rape, and their position on abortion (only a small minority want a complete ban).

  8. jimsf
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 21:29

    Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles (Transportation): Villaraigosa, one of the nation’s most prominent elected Latino leaders, has made transportation his trademark issue as chief executive of the nation’s second-largest city. The National Journal cited him as the top contender for the job now held by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has suggested that he’s heading for the door.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Obama-may-tap-Californians-for-Cabinet-4018590.php#ixzz2BhTA398h

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