A majority of California voters support an upcoming ballot measure that would strip funding from the high-speed rail project and divert it toward new water storage projects, according to a poll released Thursday.
The Hoover Institution Golden State Poll found that 53% of likely California voters would vote for a measure that would reallocate billions of dollars in unspent bond money from high-speed rail to fund the construction of new surface and groundwater storage infrastructure, while 31% would not.
Two California Republican lawmakers submitted the language of the proposed ballot measure in November. State Sen. Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) said the proposal was necessary as a record four-year-long drought has decimated the state’s water supplies.
“Water remains our state’s most important [resource] and our ballot measure provides a clear path for funding surface and groundwater storage, and recycling projects,” Huff said in a statement. “It does so without a penny of new taxes or borrowing by the state. Voters are demanding that state government does what every family does when faced with a challenge – change its priorities.”
In addition to broad support for the ballot measure, the poll also found that 62% of California voters believe the state should prioritize water storage construction in its spending. Moreover, just 39% of voters approve of Gov. Jerry Brown’s support for the high speed rail project, while 41% do not.
Anxiety over California’s water storage capabilities has spiked as the drought has dragged on; a February 2015 Field Poll found that just 10% of voters believe the state’s water storage facilities are more than adequate, while 38% said they are barely adequate. That result marked a dramatic shift in what the public sees as a possible solution to the drought; a Field Poll conducted one year earlier found “no clear consensus” among the public about whether water shortages were due to lack of storage facilities or inefficient usage.
At the same time, public support for the high speed rail has continued to founder as the project suffers from massive cost overruns, lengthy construction delays, and lawsuits over the extent of its environmental impact. As Breitbart’s Chriss Street reported in October, the total cost of the high-speed rail project could reach as high as $93 billion, more than double the total cost proposed in the November 2008 voter-approved Proposition 1A. With $9 billion in funding from that voter-approved bond measure, $3.2 billion in federal grants and up to $1 million per year in state cap-and-trade revenues, the project is still roughly $67 billion underfunded.
“California voters know that the drought has changed our state’s priorities and needs,” said Board of Equalization Vice Chair George Runner, who co-authored the ballot measure with Huff. “When given the choice, they choose water over high speed rail.”
A majority of state voters would support a measure that reallocates rail money to water, but that support dips slightly, to 49%, for a more broadly worded measure that would divert that same bond money elsewhere.
Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance, which sponsored the measure, said the initiative would give voters the opportunity to “reprioritize the needs of California.”
“While trains are nice, water is a necessity for survival, food and our economy,” she said.