Legislators To Play Let’s Make a Deal for HSR Funds?
I’ve always assumed that one of the endgames for Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to use $250 million in cap-and-trade funds for high speed rail would be that the Legislature would demand some sort of trade in exchange for approving the request. Sure enough, that’s what may well happen:
One of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed solutions, using money raised from the sale of carbon credits, isn’t going over big with many lawmakers.
Toss in the growing opposition from voters, who have had a change of heart after the price more than tripled, and you’ve got a train full of trouble.
Still, insiders say Brown is likely to push on – but it could cost him.
A number of lawmakers have told us privately that if there’s enough money for high-speed rail, there should be enough to restore social programs cut during the recession or put more children in preschool.
If the high-speed iron horse is going to happen, in other words, it’s going to take some old-fashioned horse trading to get it done.
Matier and Ross are wrong to say that voters “have had a change of heart” – polls show there’s only been a 4 point swing against it after five years of relentlessly negative media coverage – but their analysis of the Sacramento politics makes sense.
Legislators have long wanted to reverse some of the huge cuts that many social service programs took during the recession in 2008 and 2009. Jerry Brown is famously tight with money and in an election year he would much rather hoard money in a rainy day fund and pay down debt rather than restore some of these cuts. With his cap-and-trade request, legislators now have leverage over the governor and can demand some of those programs be restored in exchange for approving the HSR funds.
I happen to agree with those legislators that as the state gets more money in the door, it should be used to help people in need by restoring those cuts. But I also know that Governor Brown is right that HSR is essential to California’s future prosperity. So the Legislature needs to approve the funds, and Brown needs to cut whatever deal he must to get them to do so.
Anyhow. My unsolicited advice to Jerry Brown: make it clear in your dealings with the press and the Legislature that the bullet train’s problems all stem from the Tea Party. That’s it. Why should California Democrats hand the Tea Party a huge win and undermine President Obama by killing this crucial project?