Dodge a Bullet, Dig a Tunnel, Dole Out Dollars

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In his first State of the State address, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he is ending the state’s high-speed rail project, also known as the “bullet train,” because it “would cost too much and take too long” to build. Recent estimates peg the cost at $77 billion but the true figure would surely be much higher. Recall the new span of the Bay Bridge, ten years late, $5 billion over budget, and still riddled with safety issues. Even if built, the bullet train would be more expensive and slower than air travel, so it was all about spending and building up government. Taxpayers might note how High-Speed Rail boss Brian Kelly responded to the governor’s announcement: “The Governor has called for setting a priority on getting high-speed rail operating in the only region in which we have commenced construction—the Central Valley. We are eager to meet this challenge and expand the project’s economic impact in the Central Valley.”

Taxpayers should monitor what happens to the money for the project, and the fate of the regional offices. While dubious about high-speed rail, Newsom retains Jerry Brown’s tunnel vision, though the new governor favors only “a single tunnel.” The current WaterFix plan, with two tunnels, would cost an estimated $16.7 billion and take 15 years to build.

Governor Newsom also appointed former California First Lady Maria Shriver to lead an Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force. Taxpayers may recall that the $3 billion 2004 stem cell initiative, Proposition 71, promised life-saving cures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases, plus royalties flowing into state coffers. The measure created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which in the early going handed out 91 percent of research funding to institutions with representatives on its governing board. CIRM succeeded as a hive of cronyism but failed to deliver the promised cures and therapies. Maria Shriver’s former husband, Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a big-time backer of Proposition 71. Taxpayers should not be surprised if Shriver’s Alzheimer’s task force recommends more billions for CIRM and the governor goes along.

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