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California Judge’s Ruling May Save State from Bullet Train

California Judge’s Ruling May Save State from Bullet Train

There has been an important ruling on a court case involving the construction of California’s budget-busting high speed train.

And provisions written into the ballot measure approved by voters when they agreed to the train may save them from its unintended consequences. A Sacramento judge ruled that the California High-Speed Rail Authority was violating the 2008 state law providing funds for the bullet-train project.

But what’s not yet appreciated is that the good news was generated by that rarest of Golden State phenomena: a well-crafted state initiative. Proposition 1A — the 2008 measure providing $9.95 billion in state bond funding for initial work on a much-costlier statewide bullet-train system — included several powerful protections for California taxpayers.

Two of those protections were cited by Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny in his decision. One held that construction could not begin on any segment until the state had reliably identified financing for the entire 300-mile initial operating segment, which is to link Merced and northern Los Angeles County. The second held that construction could not begin until all necessary environmental clearances had been obtained for the entire initial segment.

However, San Diego blogger Dean Riehm has been following the high speed shenanigans since the beginning, and is skeptical that the ruling offers any real relief from this fiscal fiasco.

..[The j]udge said he will leave it up to the lawmakers to figure their way out of this legal and financial conundrum and rail honcho Richard says this is all back on the judge. In the meantime, nothing to see here, all ahead, full, because…

Central Valley landowners and the Kings County Board of Supervisors argued in their 2011 lawsuit that the $68 billion high-speed rail plan did not meet the promises made to voters when they approved selling $10 billion in bonds for it.

However, the lawsuit was filed in 2011, before the authority revised its business plan to scale back the cost and revise the planned routes, and high-speed rail officials believe many of the arguments made in court no longer apply to the project.

What is meant by “revised its business plan to scale back the cost” is to eliminate the funding of the infrastructure required to power the rail system and to eliminate the funding for the actual choo-choos. No lie, gang. This is how you get a project that was advertised as costing in the $33-40 billion range when high-speed rail was put on the ballot back in 2008 to the current $68 price tag when estimates for a fully functioning rail system has been put in the $100-120 billion range….Of course lawsuits mean nothing when you just start making up stuff along the way.

Riehm is right to be concerned. It has been our experience that our state’s politicos are usually consistent about one thing only: Expanding the size of government on the backs of tax payers.  If there is a way to work around the judge’s ruling, they will find it.


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I live in Merced. This bullet train is the biggest boondoggle in history. We would be far better off spending that money on fixing/improving the existing infrastructure.

Or not spending it at all.

    Wouldn’t one think an ultra high speed train between Merced and, say, Fresno would need to accelerate all the way to Madera and then brake all the way to Pinedale where it enters the yard limits? Might be a great carnival ride, but public transportation?

If there is a way to work around the judge’s ruling, they will find it.

They could follow the example of Dear Leader in DC, and just ignore what doesn’t please their senses.

I just smirk at this. Article 16, Section 1 of the California Constitution forbids the State from borrowing more than $300,000 without the approval of 2/3 of the legislature AND approval by the voters. This article is routinely and repeatedly ignored and nobody seems to care.

SECTION 1. The Legislature shall not, in any manner create any debt or debts, liability or liabilities, which shall, singly or in the aggregate with any previous debts or liabilities, exceed the sum of three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000), except in case of war to repel invasion or suppress insurrection, unless the same shall be authorized by law for some single object or work to be distinctly specified therein which law shall provide ways and means, exclusive of loans, for the payment of the interest of such debt or liability as it falls due, and also to pay and discharge the principal of such debt or liability within 50 years of the time of the contracting thereof, and shall be irrepealable until the principal and interest thereon shall be paid and discharged, and such law may make provision for a sinking fund to pay the principal of such debt or liability to commence at a time after the incurring of such debt or liability of not more than a period of one-fourth of the time of maturity of such debt or liability; but no such law shall take effect unless it has been passed by a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to each house of the Legislature and until, at a general election or at a direct primary, it shall have been submitted to the people and shall have received a majority of all the votes cast for and against it at such election;

Professor, anybody an expert on CA constitutional law out there, that cares to comment on Article 16, section 1? it would seem like a great opportunity for “lawfare” by some conservatives.

Subotai Bahadur | August 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

1) The Democrats control the Executive Branch and the entire bureaucracy in California.

2) The Democrats control both Houses of the Legislature so completely that the few Republican members need not even show up.

3) Democrats believe that the law is a mere bourgeois convention that retards the progress of the establishment of the workers and peasants’ paradise.

4) Most Democrat judges will gladly subordinate the law to party.

5) There has not been a Conservative governor appointing California Supreme Court Justices since January 1975; so we can assume that every freaking one of them is a devout Leftist.

6) Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney might as well have saved the effort of writing the opinion.

Subotai Bahadur

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | August 22, 2013 at 1:07 am

    I thank God every day that my husband and I escaped that third-world cesspool swirling the drain. I lived there for over fifty years and only recently managed to finally get out.

    Every word you say is true, but I disagree slightly with your take on the motives of the lawmakers-breakers in Sacramento. What drives much of what they do is creating an elitist utopia for themselves, while taking from the next rung down to feed the worker bees on the bottom rung. Their objective is to leave the middle class and small business owners with just barely enough to motivate them to keep doing what they’re doing rather than throwing in the towel and getting the hell out.

    The purpose of the train is to speed the elitists back and forth between L.A. and S.F. for cocktail parties and bilk-the-middle class business strategy meetings. With the bullet train, they don’t have to deal with airports or have to keep a household in two places.

      You are spot on about probable motives, but……….the law of unintended consequences would virtually guarantee IF the train is every built it would attract such a volume of ridership as to mandate TSA security screening to ride it.

      So the screening process to board would take longer than the ride itself. Just sayin’.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to 49erDweet. | August 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        Right, except CA would create its own thugogracy cop shop by getting some waiver from the feds. That would increase the ticket cost, thus keeping the riff-raff off the train so the elitists don’t have to deal with any, “Yo, whaddup? You beez in my seat, cracka!”

Henry Hawkins | August 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I heard the plans for this train made for a giant circle with only one stop.