Monday, October 01, 2018

Gavin Newsom, gay marriage, high-speed rail

In the NY Times profile of Gavin Newsom, the reporter dutifully checks the box on gay marriage:

Mr. Newsom won widespread attention as mayor of San Francisco — where, among other things, he championed same-sex marriage at a time when it was a contentious issue even in his own party.

Apparently the Times thought it was not fit to print anything about the context of then-Mayor Newsom's poorly-timed initiative on gay marriage, made in February, 2004, a presidential election year, which surely helped George W. Bush win a second term that November.

The NY Times supports high-speed rail everywhere, so it's not surprising that they don't press our next governor on the issue. This is not about Newsom's past flip-flops on the subject but about what he will do about the project as governor:

And Mr. Newsom so far has offered often vague responses on some of the biggest issues he would face: global warming, the over-budget high-speed rail train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the state’s volatile tax code...

"Over budget"? The dumb project has never had anything like a plausible budget or a sensible idea of where the state would get the money to build it.

In the Planning Report interview, Newsom offers this:

When it started, I was a huge supporter of it. The northern terminus was going to be in my town—the Grand Central Station of the West Coast, the Transbay Terminal. It was going to be 2 hours and 46 minutes to Downtown LA from Downtown San Francisco. It was going to generate $1 billion in surplus with 55 million passengers. A third of the money was going to come from the private sector, a third from the feds, and we’d put up our third—the $9.95 billion bond approved by voters in 2008.

From the project's 2009 business plan:

State funding: $9 billion from Proposition 1A 
Federal funding: $17‐19 billion 
Local funding: $4‐5 billion 
Private funding: $10‐12 billion 
Total: $45 billion

The official cost is now $77 billion, and even that is wildly optimistic. Keep in mind that the above money is what the HSR Authority supposedly needed just to build the system, not to operate and maintain it if/when it's ever built. 

Any taxpayer subsidy to operate/maintain the system is prohibited by 2008's Proposition 1A. The state's voters were promised that the system would be supported by its users, not subsidized by the state's taxpayers to operate and maintain after it's built.

The notion that the federal government was ever going to give California $17-19 billion to build the project is ridiculous. And $4-5 billion from local governments in the state? Ha! 

What about "private funding"? The reality: private investors insist on making money from their investments, which would mean profit guarantees from the State of California---that would be a cost---before they invested in the project.

More from Newsom in the Planning Report:

We got the federal money only because three other governors decided to get out of the high-speed rail business: Rick Scott, John Kasich, and Scott Walker. Joe Biden, who was very enthusiastic about high-speed rail, redirected their stimulus money to California. The $3.5 billion those governors gave away is all the federal money we’ve got, and I imagine that’s all we’re going to see for a long time.

Those governors understood that the federal grants to help their states build high-speed rail systems would still leave the states to pay for construction cost overruns and to operate and maintain the systems after they were built, which could easily amount to billions of dollars.

Newsom provides this ominous final comment on the stupid project:

But at the same time, I love the vision, and I’m committed to it. I think the only way we can achieve this vision is to get Phase I done and then to enlighten the private sector about the opportunity to help finance subsequent segments. Then we have to imagine a day when we have a more enlightened legislative leadership in Congress and the White House that might support that vision.

Apparently we're going to have a governor who doesn't know the difference between a vision and a hallucination. There has never been anything "enlightened" about this project. It was dumb from the start, pushed by special interests, like the labor unions, and lies about the cost, ridership, and fares.

See also The high-speed rail project: The shame of the Democratic Party.

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