Governor Newsom pledges $4.2 billion to California high-speed rail

Governor Gavin Newsom’s latest budget proposal doubles billions of dollars in contentious funding for the San Joaquin Valley segment of the high-speed rail project and expands the state’s initiative to replace gas-powered vehicles with zero-emission vehicles.

Latest figures are part of governor’s $286.4 billion spending proposal released earlier this week — with $9.1 billion earmarked for transportation infrastructure — which the governor says is part of the state’s concerted effort to curb the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. California greenhouse. The budget proposal works like a wishlist as the governor enters negotiations with lawmakers ahead of the June deadline for the 2022-23 budget.

But the proposed $4.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail has been mired in controversy. This is the final $9.9 billion in high-speed rail bond funds, which voters approved in 2008 Proposition 1A on the promise that they would see a high-speed rail linking Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. At the moment, that’s not what voters are getting.

Instead, Newsom is seeking the $4.2 billion to complete a 119-mile segment in Fresno, Kern, Madera and Kings counties, even though some Democrats say the funding should be used for projects intended to urban centers in the Bay Area and the South. California, a no less populated part of the Central Valley.

“Let’s get the job done. Let’s finish the Central Valley component,” Newsom said Thursday during a news conference at the Santa Clara Railroad Depot. “The voters have set aside the money for this purpose, I want to pull those dollars out of Proposition 1A and finish this job. Do it quickly and wisely.

Newsom failed to secure funding for the Central Valley project last year as he encountered strong headwinds from Democratic leaders, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who represents parts of the south. of Los Angeles County.

“The fact that the state currently has high revenues does not absolve us of the responsibility to target those revenues – both to the people who need them most and to the places where it will do the most good,” he said. Rendon said in a statement Thursday. , adding that he “looks forward to further discussions” on the issue.

SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 13: California Governor Gavin Newsom walks out after speaking during a press conference held at the Santa Clara Railroad Depot Museum and Caltrain Station in Santa Clara on Thursday, January 13, 2021. Newsom was on hand to highlight significant transportation and infrastructure investments in the California Blueprint. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

According to Boris Lipkin, Northern California regional manager at the California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority, the high-speed rail project currently relies on revenue from the state’s cap and trade program, but the delay bond income will have “a big domino effect with the rest of the state.

Funding “was significant last year and has already caused delays,” Lipkin said. “But it’s critical this year.”

Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, said the dispute over funding comes down to a dispute between the Newsom administration and Southern California lawmakers who ” want to see a system permanently castrated and essentially a failed project.”

“They have next to no confidence that the system is going to be finished,” Elkind said. “With Newsom, his vision is that the project can be done if you don’t do it now.”

The governor is also adding $6.1 billion over five years to support the adoption of zero-emission vehicles and build infrastructure to support the state’s goal of ending the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. With the new funding, the state will put $10 billion toward clean energy vehicles over the next five years.

The proposed money will be directed towards low-income consumer purchases of zero-emission passenger vehicles and nearly $1 billion towards the addition of 1,000 zero-emission transit trucks and 1,700 zero-emission transit buses .

“If you’re serious about decarbonizing and radically changing the way we produce and consume energy,” Newsom said, “you can’t do that without radically transforming your transportation sector.”

Jose P. Rogers