California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday in his “State of the State” address at the California State Capitol in Sacramento that he would abandon the state’s high-speed rail system because it was too expensive.
The plan to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by high-speed rail “would cost too much and, respectfully, would take too long,” he told legislators. He said the state would still build a portion of the system under construction in the rural Central Valley, denying that it would be a “train to nowhere.” He said the state would not send $3.5 billion back to the federal government to be spent by President Donald Trump.
But Newsom said the state could not afford the total cost — even with what he noted was a “record-breaking surplus” in the state’s coffers, thanks to the ongoing economic recovery.
He also replaced the chair of the high-speed rail’s governing body, saying there had been too little oversight and transparency.
Voters approved the first bond for the “bullet train” under the California High-Speed Rail Authority by referendum in Proposition 1A in 2008. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, championed the project during his third and fourth terms in office, calling it central to the fight against climate change.
Yet over time, the project grew more and more expensive, rising from an initial estimate of $37 billion in 2008 to nearly $100 billion according to an estimate last year. In 2014, Breitbart News revealed that the “high-speed” train would not be so “high-speed” after all, running slower on tracks from San Jose to San Francisco, and from the San Fernando Valley into downtown Los Angeles. The earliest the project might have been completed was in 2033.
Still, Gov. Brown continued to defend the high-speed rail project.
Just last year, in his final “State of the State” address, Gov. Brown said:
I make no bones about it. I like trains and I like high-speed trains even better. So did the voters in 2008 when they approved the bond. Look, 11 other countries have high-speed trains. They are now taken for granted all over Europe, in Japan and in China. President Reagan himself said in Japan on November 11, 1983: “The State of California is planning to build a rapid speed train that is adapted from your highly successful bullet train.” Yes, we were, and now we are actually building it.
Like any big project, there are obstacles. … Yes, it costs lots of money but it is still cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports and building new freeways to meet the growing demand. It will be fast, quiet and powered by renewable electricity and last for a hundred years.
Already, more than 1,500 construction workers are on the job at 17 sites and hundreds of California businesses are providing services, generating thousands of job years of employment. As the global economy puts more Americans out of work and lowers wages, infrastructure projects like this will be a key source of well-paid California jobs.
Difficulties challenge us but they can’t discourage or stop us. Whether it’s roads or trains or dams or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for America. Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles. But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.
As Lieutenant Governor, Newsom opposed the high-speed project, but flip-flopped in 2016, backing the project and promising “100 percent” to seek public funding as governor.
However, upon taking office, Newsom appears to have had a change of heart — especially as he has prioritized providing health insurance to all California residents.
While he had “nothing but respect for Governor Brown and Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger,” Newsom said that the bullet train, as planned, could not be completed.
Newsroom’s announcement came just days after Democrats — including California’s own Sen. Kamala Harris — embraced the “Green New Deal,” a plan by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to move the entire country to 100% renewable energy in the next ten years. The plan calls for massive investment in high-speed rail across the country.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cited the “Green New Deal” on Monday when he decided to cancel the building of three new natural gas plants to provide for the city’s electricity needs, saying that the power would have to come from wind and solar energy — somehow.
But Newsom, considering budget constraints, took a different approach.
The new governor also devoted much of his speech to attacking President Trump over “fear-mongering” over a “so-called border crisis,” though he praised the president for trying to lower prescription drug prices.
He also accused Trump of “xenophobia” and “nativism” for his approach to illegal immigration.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.