Will Gov. Brown Sign Bill Requiring Stricter Oversight of High-Speed Rail?

High speed railSometimes watching Governor Jerry Brown in action you often think of Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re going to get.” A recent example: the Jerry Brown who holds a relatively tight reign on the budget in support of economic prudence dismisses economic theory for what he termed a moralistic stand when signing the minimum wage bill.

These thoughts swirl as the Assembly Transportation Committee unanimously passed AB2847 by Assemblyman Jim Patterson requiring stricter oversight on the costs and scope of the high-speed rail project.

Brown is the bullet train’s greatest advocate. He’s also been the state’s leading preacher within the government hierarchy on fiscal responsibility. If AB2847 clears committee and floor votes and ends up on the governor’s desk will he sign it?

The measure, following recommendations out of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, requires details on costs, schedules and scope of each segment of the train’s building progress, and, importantly, demands to know how the segment will be paid for.

The cost question is paramount because voters were told private funding was part of the formula for financing the rail project. No major private funder have stepped forward. In addition, an appeals court is considering a lawsuit over the legality of the cap-and-trade money, a large chunk of which is dedicated to the high-speed rail.

As Assemblyman Patterson notes, “The Rail Authority is tasked with the largest infrastructure project in modern times and is on track to spend billions upon billions of public resources.” We ought to know more detail about the project.

The Legislature appears to be bending to pubic concerns about the seemingly flimsy promises and financial quagmire that the train project could present.

With Brown’s signature on the minimum wage bill and his pronouncement that morality trumps economy, he could position himself similarly on the high-speed rail, although it’s hard to see how the bullet train is a lesson in morality.

It’s a bit ironic, I suppose, that given technological advancements over the last four decades, that what Brown was excoriated for in his first iteration as governor — a proposed state operated satellite, which earned him the sobriquet “Moonbeam” — might seem a more acceptable project today than his down-to-earth bullet train that could go nowhere.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily