Thursday, August 09, 2012
George Will maintains that Californians have noticed that high-speed rail keeps costing more and more, may remember its original price tag, and might even apply common sense at the ballot box come November.
In 2008, Californians passed an initiative authorizing $9.95 billion in bonds to build what they were told would be a $33 billion high-speed rail system. California, constantly lurching from one budget crisis to a worse one, could not nearly afford even that, and soon the price was re-estimated at about $100 billion. Not to worry, said Gov. Jerry Brown -- the real price will be only $68.5 billion. Why? Partly because it will be less than bullet-like, not requiring extra-expensive roadbed.The Obama administration has offered a $3.3 billion subsidy for track construction, but the project is already way over budget and the original funding measure forbids operating subsidies. On top of this:
California's voters evidently understand that Washington's $3.3 billion is spending for the purpose of committing Sacramento to much greater spending: Polls show that 59 percent would now reject the project they authorized.Will notes further that Governor Jerry Brown continues to back this rail "plan", which a majority of voters may feel they didn't sign up for, and, for that purpose is actually backing "temporary" income tax hikes on the wealthy and sales taxes for everyone. Will holds that even California voters won't buy this at election time.
But even if Will proves not to be a mere optimist on that score, too many still imagine that central planning can work, as evidenced by the rail opponent he cites, who nevertheless favors high speed rail "done right". So long as too many voters think that doing high speed rail "right" involves anything other than a private company building and operating it for profit -- and at a financial risk to nobody but themselves -- high speed rail won't get "done right", if it should be done at all.