March 4, 2014
SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Tuesday that backers of a plan to end the California high-speed rail project had the green light to begin collecting signatures in an effort to get an initiative on the ballot.
According to Bowen’s office,
the measure “Prevents the issuance and sale of the remaining amount of
high-speed rail bonds previously approved by the voters to initiate
construction of a high-speed rail .
Authorizes the Legislature to redirect any unspent high-speed rail bond
proceeds away from high-speed rail purposes, to repay outstanding
high-speed rail bonds. Prevents state from incurring additional debt,
spending any federal, state, or local funds, or entering into new
contracts for the high-speed rail project.”
Proponents of the measure, which was submitted by Republican Ventura
County State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, now have 150 days to circulate
their petition. They will need 504,760 valid signatures, which equates
to five percent of the 2010 gubernatorial election total, to get the
issue on the November ballot.
The $68 billion project has faced a number of hurdles, including funding. Two court rulings last year clouded the
future of the system. One of those prevented the state from selling
$8.6 billion in bonds that it had intended to use to pay its share of
the project. The federal government has awarded $3.5 billion in grants
to the project, including $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money, which
requires a dollar-for-dollar match and must be spent by 2017.
Support for the plan has also been slipping among prominent
democrats. Last month, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, once a strong supporter of
California’s high-speed rail project, told a conservative radio show hot that he no longer backs the bullet train and would like to see the money diverted to other projects.
That slip in support appears to be mirrored statewide, where a poll last fall revealed that the majority of California voters are now against the project.