Jeff Denham Denies HSR Funding – Then Complains About Lack of Funding

Jan 19th, 2015 | Posted by

Congressman Jeff Denham was for high speed rail before he was against it. Since taking office in Congress in 2011 he has done everything he can to stop high speed rail, including helping block any new federal funding for it. Denham’s game is to undermine HSR from Congress, then blame the Authority for having financial problems. It’s like taking food away from someone and then criticizing them for starving.

Denham is at it again, with a new op-ed in the Sacramento Bee criticizing the project for lacking funding. Let’s deconstruct this:

The authority is more than $20 billion short of completing the initial operating segment, and $55 billion short to build from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Cost estimates have doubled, then tripled, and now settled at $68 billion for completion. That $68 billion doesn’t include segments to Sacramento or San Diego, which were promised to voters when they approved Proposition 1A in 2008. It will cost billions more to connect these two major cities and enable their residents to use the rail line.

Denham doesn’t mention the cap-and-trade funds as a source of revenue here, which drops the unfunded part of the initial operating segment by at least half, if not more. Sacramento and San Diego are non sequiturs here, as they are Phase II of the project — those cities were never promised to be connected from day one.

Denham then goes on to take a shot at the right-of-way purchase process:

Most of the spending so far has been on designing, building and consulting fees instead of land. The authority’s unwillingness to offer fair prices to farmers whose families have owned their property for generations has impeded the process.

Instead, the authority has resorted to using eminent domain to steal land it needs, which could take years. Breaking ground without acquiring the necessary land is likely to leave our Central Valley dotted with empty construction sites that have torn through farms, forced residents to move and cost us all billions.

Everyone thinks their land is worth more than it actually is. The Authority is legally bound to offer a fair market value price. Eminent domain is no more “stealing land” than is me going to the store, taking something off the shelf, and paying for it at the checkstand. It’s a constitutionally protected process.

Of course, land acquisition would proceed more quickly if the Authority hadn’t had to slow the process owing to uncertainty over funding. Which Denham could easily resolve. Similarly, it’s hypocritical to slam the Authority for not having all its money accounted for and then slam them for not offering top dollar for properties – something they can’t do if they’re not swimming in money.

On Sept. 30, 2017, the stimulus money will go away, regardless of whether the authority intends to spend it or not. To meet the deadline, the authority, which has spent $500 million in the past six years, would have to spend $2.7 billion in the next two years – 16 times its current rate of spending.

At the same time, the authority would have to come up with an additional $2.7 billion in state matching dollars. This seems impossible. The stipulations of the stimulus funding are written into federal law and cannot be renegotiated by the Federal Railroad Administration and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The thing that Denham leaves out about that $2.7 billion figure is that the spending will come in the form of actual steel-in-the-ground construction. The Authority has already approved two construction contracts that add up to about $2.7 billion. One is just getting started and the other will be under way shortly. And once construction gets going, that money will be flying out the door – spending on construction happens much faster than spending on studies and consultants. So yeah, spending 16 times its current rate is not only possible but certain.

I don’t understand the source of Denham’s second point here, that the state doesn’t have extra money to give. My understanding is that there’s more than enough left in Prop 1A bond funds to meet that goal. If not, there’s hundreds of millions of dollars coming from cap-and-trade this year alone. Denham’s claims here don’t stack up.

Republicans in Congress will not, under any circumstance, provide more funding for this failed project. We are six years into the authority’s efforts to harangue, cajole, extort, bribe or otherwise bamboozle California and the private sector for additional financing.

This is just ideological commentary designed to appease the far right. However, it’s nice that Denham is being honest here: even if the Authority addressed every single one of his complaints in this op-ed, it would never be enough, the Republicans will never give another dime to HSR no matter what.

The best the authority could do was to convince Brown to commit $250 million a year via the controversial cap-and-trade scheme on carbon emitters – a drop in the bucket that will be paid for by our state’s highway users. No private financing has emerged, irrespective of the authority’s comments that financiers are coming out of the woodwork.

Cap-and-trade is only controversial on the right. It is popular with the state as a whole, whose voters approved it when oil companies tried to repeal it in 2010. And the state’s highway users are, it turns out, not actually paying for this at all. Gas prices have fallen by an average of 20 cents per gallon since the beginning of the month, wiping out the temporary increase of about 3 cents a gallon that occurred when cap-and-trade was extended to gasoline on January 1. I’m guessing Denham has not even seen a gas station in California in weeks.

Despite breaking ground recently, the authority’s gamble has failed. The authority wagered that if only it could get a shovel in the ground, the inertia behind the project would be too great to turn back. And yet the opposite has occurred. Public opposition is at an all time high, no doubt due to the private citizens who are having their land removed from their possession by a state government blinded by a pipe dream and the allure of “free” federal tax dollars.

Denham is simply wrong to say “public opposition is at an all time high” – the most recent poll on HSR, PPIC’s March 2014 poll, found that 53% supported HSR – that’s greater than the 52% who voted for Prop 1A in 2008. The Republican candidate for governor, who made opposition to HSR a centerpiece of his campaign, lost to the HSR Governor by 20 points. All the evidence is crystal clear: Californians support high speed rail and want this project to be built. Maybe that’s why Denham’s party lost seats in the California Congressional delegation in 2014.

This isn’t a conversation about whether or not opponents of the project support the concept of high-speed rail. Personally, I would love to see high-speed rail in this country, where and when it makes sense.

And yet he has opposed the only HSR project currently under way.

This is a conversation about priorities. Here are a few things you could pay for with $100 billion, the total cost of building to Sacramento and San Diego:

▪ 10 years of the state’s entire infrastructure budget, including all the money spent maintaining or constructing highways, bridges and roads.

▪ 800 million-plus plane tickets from LAX to SFO.

▪ 34 years of free tuition for every UC student.

If anyone seriously proposed spending $100 billion on any of that, Denham would be first in line to oppose it. Republicans believe that this $100 billion should not be spent on anything at all – except maybe more tax cuts for the rich.

The only sensible thing to do is to take the project, and its new estimates and costs, back to the voters to seek their approval. The authority must be honest with us about the challenges ahead, and what the true costs and deliverables of the project will be. The high-speed rail proposal no longer resembles what California voters were promised in shovel-ready jobs, ridership numbers, speeds or costs, and cap-and-trade funding is uncertain at best.

So why have all the past efforts to put this back on the ballot fizzled? I’m willing to go back to the ballot, with an ask for more HSR money. I am confident it would pass. I am also confident that a revote of the project as a whole would pass. Denham knows that, and therefore knows no such revote will be offered since his side would lose.

The United States has led the world in rail infrastructure for generations. Now we have an opportunity to move into the 21st century with safe and efficient high-speed rail systems. California’s high-speed rail, with no viable funding plan, little support from the voters and a “don’t worry about it” attitude toward the future, is no way to set an example.

Years from now – but hopefully just a few years – people will look back at the Republican Congress and its absolute refusal to spend any new money on modern infrastructure and see it as an example of something that must never be repeated in this country again.

  1. MarkB
    Jan 19th, 2015 at 22:50

    Robert: typo alert in the first sentence.

    I’d guess the sentence would be equally correct if it read: Congressman Jeff Denhan was for high-speed rail before Obama was for high-speed rail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Heh, fixed.

  2. Robert S. Allen
    Jan 19th, 2015 at 23:25

    Just drop the “Blended Rail”. Fence the right of way and grade separate crossings to make HSR Safe and Reliable, per 2008 Prop 1A.

    Stop squandering HSR money on Caltrain, whose many stations and dozens of road crossings make HSR there NEITHER SAFE NOR RELIABLE. Far better, safer, more reliable, and less costly alternative: follow the UP/Amtrak Mulford route from San Jose to Oakland and San Francisco, with a new transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland. From there BART now runs 16 trains per hour reaching the four downtown San Francisco BART/Muni stations in six to ten minutes.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Dr. Pavlov, we have a new subject…

    Reedman Reply:

    What would have prevented the bus-train crash in Texas? It was a grade-separated crossing.

    Derek Reply:

    A guardrail or k-rail might have prevented that collision.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    There was a similar incident in the UK in 2001, known as the Selby or Great Heck accident. It was determined that the guard rails of the road overbridge do not extend far enough each side of the bridge to adequately protect the railway from runaway road vehicles.

    Derek Reply:

    Hm, I guess the bus went right over the concrete rail:

    Clem Reply:

    How many grade crossings are there on the Mulford line?

  3. Jerry
    Jan 19th, 2015 at 23:52

    “Maybe that’s why Denham’s party [Republican] lost seats in the California Congressional delegation in 2014.”
    Add to that, maybe that’s why Neel Kashkari lost to Jerry Brown. In an election in which Kashkari tried to make CAHSR an issue.

  4. Jerry
    Jan 19th, 2015 at 23:55

    Denham is just, “pusillanimous”.

  5. Alon Levy
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 04:26

    Denham doesn’t mention the cap-and-trade funds as a source of revenue here, which drops the unfunded part of the initial operating segment by at least half, if not more.

    That’s just a billion a year, no? So it cuts the $20 billion shortfall by half, if you’re willing to wait ten years. Now, I get that in the world of Great Government Projects, which exist to condition people to be used to government projects rather than to provide services to people as efficiently as possible, waiting decades is just the serious way to get it done. But in a world of good government – and opening HSR in 2020 is better than in 2035 – it’s not like this. Wasting cap-and-trade money is bad in any case, but what’s the point of doing that if it’s going to take so long to build an IOS, let alone LA-SF?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Much as I understand your frustration, these type of projects have an additional barrier that is getting glossed over. Low interest rates at the Fed are pushing down the attractiveness of government debt like Prop 1a. It’s not that nobody will buy it, but the interest rates will be lower than what the government wants.

    This is a crucial distinction that gets overlooked. When you sell a bond, low interest rates help you, but as the bond matures, increasing interest rates help boost the return on the debt. Thus, what used to happen until the 21st century was governments would issue a raft of notes when interest rates were low and then pay them off as rates increased with a healing economy. Thanks to austerity, aka starve the beast, aka contraction, that is no longer possible.

    This, the cap and trade cash is intended to pay this debt down, not provide a new revenue stream.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Huh? The government wants to pay low interest on the bonds.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Here’s how it works, in very basic terms:

    The Fed has an interest rate of 5%. A city comes along and issues notes for 10 year repayment. The city offers a new tax as part of the collateral on the debt. Then, as interest rise, the bond price goes up and the city sells its interest in securitized form to an investment bank. Now the city borrowed money for less than prime and got paid above par for the balance.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, but you’re wrong. Higher interest rates equal cheaper bonds, not more expensive bonds.

    For example, let’s say a country has to pay 30% interest on its 10-year bonds. You recognize that this country isn’t actually going to go bankrupt and buy €100,000’s worth of bonds, yielding €30,000 per year. A year later, people have calmed down and realized what you recognized ahead of time, and interest rates go down to 5%. Your bond still yields €30,000 a year because the government made an obligation to pay that when you bought the 10-year bond. So now you have an asset that yields €30,000 a year and matures in 9 years. Since the government can now sell bonds at 5%, you can sell your bond on the secondary market for €600,000 as a 9-year bond yielding 5%. You’ve made a factor-of-six profit.

    For another example, in 2009 and 2010, the inflation hawks warned of a US bond bubble, which of course turned out to be wrong. What they meant was as follows: US bonds had very low yields, about 0.5% for inflation-protected bonds. This means that bonds yielding $5,000 a year cost $1,000,000. When they warned of a bubble, the inflation hawks thought that persistent deficits would cause interest rates to rise, which would cause these bonds to crash: a rise in real interest rates to 2% would send the value of these $5,000 a year bonds to $250,000, and a rise to 5% (still well below Shadowstats and Zero Hedge conspiracy theorists’ predictions) would cut them further to $100,000. As per the inflation hawks, people who bought US bonds then would’ve made factor-of-ten losses.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    cap d trade funds are to be used to leverage private investment

    trentbridge Reply:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the examples of private investment into THSR and the Chunnel are what the state has in mind, then everyone involved should be jailed right now for gross corruption and abuse of public trust.

    Jonathan Reply:

    minus several billion. Historically, several billion dollars’ worth of small-investor, retiree’s money.

    JCC Reply:

    Alon, that is an incredibly dumb and shortsighted statement that you wrote.

    I could list many examples of how you’re wrong but lets start with this….

    Should the Interstate Highway system proposed by President Eisenhower not have been built because the highways couldn’t have been built and completed concurrently??????

    I also find highly suspect the rhetoric that use in your statement such as “Now, I get that in the world of Great Government Projects, which exist to condition people to be used to government projects rather than to provide services to people as efficiently as possible,…. ”

    Your rhetoric sounds like Rep. Dunham, Fox News, and many other right wing pundits. Sad and pathetic.

    nslander Reply:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, the Interstates should not have been built, because they involved massive destruction in the cities and overbuilding in the rural areas. They’re exactly the Great Government Projects that people are used to, forgetting the enormous human cost involved, then and today.

    But let’s put that aside for a moment. When the Interstate program was passed, it had full funding, based on the expected budget (which ran over by a factor of 2 within a few years). It had a funding stream and a plan to complete the project in 12 years; that didn’t happen of course, which goes to show you how trustworthy these plans are, but based on the initial plan, it was funded. California HSR went to ballot on a little more than one fifth the expected budget and claimed it’d get the rest via magic asterisks; right now the only available funding stream makes it a multi-generation project. No, thanks.

    Also, about the Fox News rhetoric? You should hear me talk about immigration, or climate change, or US foreign policy. Or, fuck, about universal health care or education. People can mistrust the US federal government (and the California state government) for many reasons. “It’s run by Democrats” is one. “It commits war crimes under either party” is another.

    The problem with that partisan Democratic thinking about proving to people that government is necessary is that it leads to big projects rather than good ones. That’s why California is wasting cap-and-trade money on HSR instead of directing it to improving buildings’ insulation. The latter is labor-intensive and creates more jobs per dollar spent, but doesn’t lend itself to ribbon cutting ceremonies. For the same reason, the state says green energy and means concentrated solar power in the desert, sometimes in areas with endangered species, and not rooftop panels. Subsidizing green energy and conservation would provide an immense service to people – climate change avoidance – but wouldn’t serve to remind anyone that some politician exists and is important.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Alon, about the Interstates, you are entirely correct. But the really sad thing is that the devastation continues, with cities enthusiastically building more urban freeways(call them “Beltways”) and the public applauds it.

    More or at least as effective as insulation: better siding. Especially in California where builders have been able to get away with cardboard grade siding for years.

    The problem with all these improvements, insulation, siding, solar, is labor costs and contractor markup. If you are young enough to have the energy it has to be DIY. Get a single story house and you can do your own siding. Otherwise you will need your government loan or grant to pay many, many thousands to a contractor.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Alon, desert solar mega-projects are capital-intensive. They necessarily involve an entity which can make political campaign donations. And opportunities for ribbon-cutting ceremonies

    Anyone who cares, at *all*, about reducing CO2 emissions, and is numerate, will insist on spending cap-and-trade funds on CO2 reductions which have the biggest reduction-of-CO2-per-dollar, and which are the most-rapidly deployed. HSR is neither. Every dollar of cap-and-trade money spent on HSR, is *increasing CO2 emission* — due to the opportunity cost of not spending that dollar on higher-CO2-reduction-per-dollar options.

    California is wasting cap-and-trade money on HSR instead of directing it to improving buildings’ insulation.

    Indeed. CA HSR should still be built, because it’s better than the alternatives. But spending cap-and-drade money on HSR is exacerbating climate change.

  6. 202_cyclist
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 04:27

    Again, it is amusing to see the outright hypocrisy of the Republicans. These Ayn Rand-disciples complaining about the use of eminent domain to build modern, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure are the very same people who think we should steamroll the Keystone pipeline to export Canadian oil to Europe through without any of the requisite environmental reviews.

  7. morris brown
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 04:36

    Robert’s 1500 words here say little. Denham most certainly mentioned Cap and Trade as a source of funding, but for sure C&T funds will not come close to filling the huge funding gap.

    What so many are missing, is this acceptance of the Authority’s $68 billion cost estimate. An estimate that does not include LA to Anaheim, nor the $3 billion tunnel needed to get from 4th and King to the legally mandated TBT, nor the mandated need for dedicated tracks. This is not a $68 billion project; it will be well over $100 billion without any doubt.

    The reality of the situation is that these projects are 5 year projects and not 2.5 year projects which will be time line necessary to spend the $3.2 billion before the 2017 deadline.

    Finally, Denham failed to mention the $400 million that Senator Feinstein. took from the Fed’s HSR funding and allotted it to the TBT.

    It should also be noted that the Authority has yet made no attempt to produce the “second” funding plan; this plan must be drafted and approved before any HSR construction funds will become available from Prop 1A. When and if the “second” funding plan is approved, it will be challenged and the Superior court as well as the Appellate court will take a hard look to see if indeed Prop 1A construction funds can be approved.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    the mandated need for dedicated tracks

    Where is that mandated?

    morris brown Reply:

    “Where is that mandated?”

    Prop 1A.

    2704.09 (e).

    2704.09 (e)
    (e) Trains shall have the capability to transition intermediate stations, or to
    bypass those stations, at mainline operating speed.

    This is why the blended system is totally illegal.

    Also, no possible way for the 2 hr 40 minute trip times to be met, without dedicated tracks.

    Of course, to date, none of this matters, since our Governor, Dan Richard, with his rubber stamping board, say and do whatever that want.

    Eric Reply:

    I’d say you have to define which stations are considered “intermediate”, and also, that it doesn’t say “ALL” intermediate stations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The mainline operating speed is not 220 mph everywhere. It’s already planned to be lower on the Peninsula.

    The importance of dedicated tracks to the 2:40 mandate is seriously overrated. There’s a difference, but much less than between Tejon and Tehachapis, or between trains from 2000 and trains from 2020.

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    Heck, at the rate the segments are coming in under bid,, we can probably continue on to Anaheim and Irvine with the pocket change!

    Clem Reply:

    You’re counting chickens before they’re hatched. Bid price is not the same thing as final cost, because Change Orders Happen. In fact that’s where all the profit lies.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Why would “Change Orders Happen”, on a Design/Build contract for fairly routine civil-engineering work?

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    Isn’t the “Design and Build” bid supposed to cut down the number of change orders? They still might happen, and yes, I am counting those chickens. Hope I am not too dissapointed when it is said and done, it would be nice to see some pocket change left after the construction dust settles.

  8. joe
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 06:23

    Finally, Denham failed to mention the $400 million that Senator Feinstein. took from the Fed’s HSR funding and allotted it to the TBT.

    Finally, Denham failed to mention the $600 million that State Senator Jerry Hill took from the State’s HSR funding and allotted it to the Caltrain electrification project for Menlo Park and Morris Brown’s benefit.

    morris brown Reply:

    Joe writes with his usual ignorance:

    “Finally, Denham failed to mention the $600 million that State Senator Jerry Hill took from the State’s HSR funding and allotted it to the Caltrain electrification project for Menlo Park and Morris Brown’s benefit.”

    To begin, Jerry Hill was not a senator at the time SB-1029 was approved with a majority of one vote in the State Senate; he was in the Assembly at that time.

    This $600 million was along with the $500 million allocated to So. Ca., nothing more that a pure bribe to get the needed votes to pass SB-1029; plain and simple.

    Anyone who reads at all, would know that I and many others on the Peninsula do not consider the $600 million legal and certainly do not see it as being to my benefit; that is pure nonsense. I made a written case to the Authority board that the CalTrain electrification funding was illegal; I was told by Richard that CalTrain would answer my objections “very soon”. That “very soon” was about 2 years ago and as yet CalTrain is yet to respond.

    Joe Reply:

    Pure bribe worked. Residents want rail and improved quality if life electric rail brings to your neighborhood. Suggest you by a desiel truck and idle it to keep the ambiance of Today’s caltrain and car centric travel.

    Something that high-speed rail is not legal. Some people say the income tax is not legal. Some people claim that they formed an independent government’s outside the US authority.

    J. Wong Reply:

    But Morris doesn’t want that because he believes it won’t benefit him.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I suspect Morris believes that anybody in their right mind would get on a train of any sort.

    joe Reply:

    Stop jacking up the value of my property and cleaning up the air.

    As a somewhat frequent reader if the Menlo Park Almanac, I don’t recall the man opposing Menlo Park Facebook Campus and largess to the City to garner approval. Facebook is 100% dependent on Caltrain modernization as is Stanford expansion and etc.

    So the man can believe what he wants – eating donuts still makes you fat and Menlo Park’s already long past the “you kids need to get off my lawn”.

  9. Alan Kandel
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 07:15

    Does Congressperson Denham believe this project can be stopped? As far as I’m concerned his editorial is academic at this point.

    And, when the congressperson pointed out that he supports high-speed rail but only “where and when it makes sense”, by “when” I’m assuming he means when the Democrats retake both Houses of Congress and by “where” I can only assume he is talking about connecting major population centers such as in linking Chicago and New York City or Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston? My suspicion is there would be too much land and property to acquire between Chicago and NYC through eminent domain – so that wouldn’t work, which leaves Dallas/Ft. Worth – Houston??

    James M in Irvine, CA Reply:

    He’ll keep deriding CA HSR to remain popular with his constituents. The Central is still very republican.

    He will also gladly show up at the first ceremonial train to cut ribbons, because, ya know, he has been behind it ALL along….

    Zorro Reply:

    I wouldn’t invite an ingrate like Denham…

    joe Reply:

    Jeff Denham sic’d the GAO on HSR which resulted in a positive review of the project and ridership model.
    Jeff then sent the STB after HSR and they assumed jurisdictional oversight and then proceeded to vacated the CEQA act.

    No one congressional member has done more to push HSR along than Jeff Denham. He’s the Don Knotts of congress.

    Denham openly supports ACE and held a town hall meeting on the train. He wants to expand the system and that will mean getting it to connect to HSR segment. He just doesn’t know it yet.

    Donk Reply:

    Haha sounds like he is all tactics and no strategy

  10. Loren Petrich
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 08:51

    Seems like a common Republican ploy: cut taxes and then whine that there is not enough revenue for spending that they dislike but are not willing to state that they dislike. It’s like the classic example of chutzpah: killing one’s parents and then begging for mercy because one is an orphan.

  11. Scramjett
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 09:57

    Denham’s whole whine reeks of desperation. Despite what he said about there being “no momentum,” it’s that momentum, that will only get stronger as time moves on, that he is precisely afraid of.

  12. trentbridge
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 12:17

    From “The Hill” today: “Meanwhile, the federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993, even to keep pace with inflation. The result is a federal transportation program that’s needed $54 billion in general fund bailouts since 2008 just to maintain solvency.”

    Forget Denham’s diatribe on HSR, what’s his position on raising the federal gas tax?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Honestly, by now, I figure that letting the highway trust fund go bankrupt is better than maintaining the gas-taxes-are-user-fees fiction.

    It sounds nihilistic if you’re used to an American Overton window, in which taxing fuel by 10 cents a gallon is a Herculean effort, but if you’re used to fuel prices in the €1.50/liter range, and if you recognize that even higher fuel taxes are required to fight global warming, then making a gamble that would permit a real fuel tax is a rational strategy.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Adjusted for inflation, the federal gas tax would need to be doubled by 2017 to equal the same purchasing power it had when it was last raised in 1991. Watch Congress enact that change into law this year and run on “no more tax hikes” in 2016. Also watch as they make the pie no bigger, but allow states to use their share of the gas tax for whatever they want (transit, roads) as a way to give urban Dems just enough rope to hang themselves on expanding transit over roads.

    Jerry Reply:

    “what’s his position on raising the federal gas tax?”
    Waterboard him until he talks.

    Jerry Reply:

    Denham favors a much larger “land grab” for many more lanes of highways and much more asthma for his District.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Apparently, even James Inhofe, noted climate denier Senator, is contemplating raising gas taxes: SFGate: Odd of Gas Tax Hike Grow with Quiet GOP Support.

    Jerry Reply:

    He wants a gas tax hike so that they can get:
    More Lanes
    Not Trains

    les Reply:

    Why on earth would we ever want or need to raise the gas tax.

  13. Keith Saggers
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 12:42
    rail delivery partner

    Jerry Reply:

    Denham is against this meeting. It means more jobs in his District.
    Why would a Republican want to help the Middle Class?

  14. datacruncher
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 17:51

    Speaking of Denham.

    Costa, Valadao will wear lapel pins supporting bipartisan group during SOTU address

    During Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, look for central San Joaquin Valley Reps. Jim Costa and David Valadao, who will be wearing lapel pins signifying they are part of a bipartisan congressional movement.

    “No Labels,” an organization founded in 2010, wants leaders to set aside political labels and work together on the nation’s most pressing problems. The organization says its network already has hundreds of thousands and citizens and local leaders, as well as members of Congress — seven senators and 63 representatives — from both parties. Among them, Costa, the Fresno Democrat, and Valadao, the Hanford Republican, as well as Turlock Republican Jeff Denham and seven other California congressmen.

    Read more here:

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    As long as we in the US continue to have single-member districts with first-past-the-post voting, we will continue to have such political kludges. That is because the politicians are not able to group themselves into political parties that better represent their positions. Proportional representation would allow that, and many countries use it, but hardly anyone seems willing to discuss it here in the US.

    joe Reply:

    No Labels is more about big money buying votes than actual problem solving.

    I’m pretty sure most Dems that partner like Costa is trying end up losing. Recall the Blue Dog Caucus. And the Third Way and etc.

    Heath Shuler was the lead of the blue dogs. Heath made a career in the NFL out of throwing the ball to the opposition. That habit continued in Congress.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s not the problem. The problem is that the Dems ran a one dimensional strategy for over a decade focused on growing the Minority vote in the suburbs completely unaware that unscrupulous lenders during the housing bubble targeted those buyers for the riskiest and most loans which failed at a high rate.

    After bailing out the banks and doing zero for the little guy, Dems ended up conceding most of the suburbs back to the GOP. Blacks and Hispanics lost their homes outright, while whites were pushed into short sales.

    This is a crucial distinction as states and congressional districts minimize the strength of big cities where most Democrats live now. The Dems need suburban and rural voters too, less they want to become a permanent Minority…

  15. Howard
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 20:11

    Obama said he will seek more investment in infrastructure, including “faster trains” in his State of the Union speech today. Does this mean a compromise infrastructure bill that will fund incremental speed improvements to the Northeast Corridor and Midwest rail projects but no new federal funds for real “High Speed Rail” in California, Nevada and Texas (or could blended Caltrain and Metrolink improvemen’s qualify as “faster trains”)?

    joe Reply:

    It means CA’s funding will be part of a larger pot of passenger rail speed improvement funds. Such as Chicago to St Louis MO or Chicago to Detroit MI.
    Earlier this month, as he prepared to leave the post he’d held for almost six years, Szabo was in a less accustomed spot: celebrating the huge — and hugely controversial — endeavor at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno
    Within months of winning office, newly elected GOP governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin canceled planned high-speed rail ventures, cumulatively rejecting more than $3 billion in previously approved federal funding.

    “I laughed at them,” Szabo said, adding that Wisconsin is now proceeding with improvements to the Chicago-Milwaukee line “on their own dime.”

    A large chunk of the returned money was rerouted to California, where boosters credit the shift with helping the state move forward with what is eventually supposed to be a line linking San Francisco and Los Angeles. While further challenges are inevitable, Szabo said, the project has reached a tipping point where “sustained construction is a reality.”

    IKB Reply:

    please, please define “pot” above. We can all argue about how it’s spent, or how it’s mismanaged, but who is paying for it (I’d suggest look in the mirror one day). Always convenient to feel someone else is (private or perhaps another state) but is that real? Just thought I’d encourage an opinion. I wrote the other day that both Taiwan HSR and the Channel Tunnel are doing what they set out to do successfully, but per finance of the total infrastructure not what some were lead to believe – ever voted for anyone, it’s the same?

    joe Reply:

    Allocated funds by Congress for a particular purpose. In this case, an infrastructure-transportation funding allocation with a fraction either legislated or executive branch allocated to rail speed improvements.

  16. OC Insider
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 21:02

    Keep lyin’ Cruikshank.

  17. john burrows
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 22:57

    Just how big a contribution will cap-and-trade proceeds make to CAHSR is an unanswered question at this time, but here is a guess—

    The total number of allowances due to be auctioned in 2015 appears to be around 240 million which at the current floor price of $12.10 per ton would equal $2.9 billion, divided by four, CAHSR’s share would be $725 billion—assuming the auctions sell out.

    Each year thereafter the floor price goes up 5% plus cost of living while the number of allowances sold goes down 2-3%, so by 2020 the number of allowances sold would be close to 200 million at a floor price of at least $15.50 per ton, or $3.1 billion with $775 million going to high speed rail.

    After 2020 I believe that the legislature has to step in make adjustments to the program. My guess is that cap-and-trade will continue in some form until 2050 at least as this is the year by which a non-binding executive order has decreed that emissions in California be decreased by 80%. As the years go by it is very possible that the floor price could go way up, but this is not a certainty.

    If we assume that cap-and-trade will contribute $750 million per year to high speed rail over the next 35 years we would have $26 billion which could do a lot of leveraging to attract additional funding.

    The next carbon auction will be held Feb. 18, and this one will be a much bigger affair as it will for the first time include gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. The results of this auction may take some of the guesswork out of determining just how much of a contribution cap-and-trade auction proceeds will make to high speed rail. Lets hope for a sellout at a price of well above $12.10 per ton.

    john burrows Reply:

    That would be $725 million.

    joe Reply:

    Th point being, funding for a steady if slow build of the system which goes unaided by the GOP Congress.

    Denham’s argument might sound good if the project was stalled. A project that is making slow prowess without him helping to bring in federal support begs the question, why is he Chairing the rail subcommittee.

    john burrows Reply:

    Should have said inflation instead of cost of living—Got to work a little more on that editing.

    Donk Reply:

    Well hopefully when they need to re-adjust the C&T program in 2020, Gavin Newsome is not governor.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Cheerleaders do not need to worry about Gavin – he is as opportunistic as the rest.

    As mayor of SF when the Muni centennial was coming up he could have moved ahead on Geary but did nothing. Just another pol.

    Donk Reply:

    Well that’s another example of what he did not do. I am still trying to understand what he has done, aside from the gay marriage thing.

  18. john burrows
    Jan 20th, 2015 at 23:02

    That would be $725 million.

  19. Observer
    Jan 21st, 2015 at 05:40

    $725 – $775 million per year on HSR equals sustainable funding, plain and simple.

    Observer Reply:

    Speaking of Cap&Trade, might the GOP’s quite proposal to hike the federal gas tax morph into a federal Cap$Trade system to fund badly needed infrastructure investment, repeat – BADLY NEEDED INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT, perhaps even to finally fund a federal infrastructure bank? You think?

  20. Reality Check
    Jan 21st, 2015 at 10:29

    Anti-HSR Atherton upset over Caltrain electrification EIR approval


    A draft of a letter from Atherton Mayor Rick DeGolia to Caltrain says the town considers the approval of the environmental documents as putting “high speed rail one step closer to reality in Atherton.”


    A report to the council from Town Planner Lisa Costa Sanders and Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi says the town staff will work with Caltrain as the electrification project is completed to make sure the issues in the mayor’s letter are worked out.

    However, the report says, “with respect to high-speed rail, our position remains immutable. The impacts in Atherton are significant and we will stand in front of that train until our concerns are addressed.”

    Atherton had argued that the environmental report on the electrification project was not adequate because it did not address the environmental effects of high-speed rail, which the town says is inextricably tied to the electrification project.

    The report from Ms. Costa Sanders and Mr. Kashiwagi says “the electrification project is dependent on the high speed rail project for funding” and the project is also designed to be compatible with high-speed rail.


    Note: two recent former Atherton mayors (James Janz and Jerry Carlson) sit on the board of directors of the litigious and rabidly anti-HSR group CC-HSR … along with recent former mayor of Palo Alto, Mike Cobb, and attorneys Mike Brady and Gary Patton.

    Clem Reply:

    Will they have the balls to sue? That’s what you do when you don’t like an EIR.

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