A crucial vote to issue $2.7 billion in state bonds for California’s high-speed rail project should be made this week — although the timing of a vote and the outcome remain murky.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority are pushing to start construction on the $68 billion project in the Central Valley next year. To do so, the California Legislature must approve $2.7 billion in voter-approved bonds for the work. Another $3.3 billion is scheduled to arrive from the federal government.
For that plan to work, Brown must get the state Assembly and Senate to approve the issuance of the bonds. Originally, a June 30 deadline was set for the vote, but that date came and went without any action.
While the Assembly seems to be backing Brown’s vision, the Senate could be leaning toward a “Plan B” that would devote more early funding toward projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco regions.
Lisa Marie Burcar, spokesman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said she was expecting a vote to take place on the bond measure this week, possibly today. However, she conceded that the date has changed several times in the past few weeks.
Legislative leaders in the Capitol had differing answers about when they would take up the item. Michael Miiller, spokesman for State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who is backing the “Plan B,” said his office was told it would be one day this week. Adam Keigwin, spokesman for State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said he heard the vote would be Thursday and Friday. Phil Yost, spokesman for State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said his office was still waiting word on what day the vote would take place.
Brown’s office referred questions on the vote to legislative leaders. Attempts to get comment from State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, were unsuccessful Monday.
Advocates for the high-speed rail plan said it is crucial to start construction work in the Central Valley, as approved by the Authority. Doing otherwise could jeopardize the $3.3 billion in federal funds for the project.
Proponents for the “Plan B” say the funding will benefit cities with projects ready to serve hundreds of thousands of passengers.