A Good Year for California HSR Gets Even Better
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.