Vidak Introduces Legislation to Halt High-Speed Rail

Friday, January 17, 2014

At the "Whistle-Stop-the-High-Speed-Rail" rally today, Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) announced that he has introduced a package of legislation aimed at driving a stake through the heart of High-Speed Rail (HSR).

"High-Speed Rail will kill jobs, hopes and dreams," said Vidak. "The people of California are demanding and deserve a re-vote on this out-of-control train wreck."

Vidak's legislative package includes the following four bills:

Senate Bill 901 - Let the People Re-Vote on High-Speed Rail

Much has changed since Californians voted on this issue in 2008, and an overwhelming majority of them want the right to vote on whether billions of dollars of government debt should be incurred knowing what we know now:

  • In 2008, the voters were told that the cost of the project was estimated at $35 billion, but now that cost has escalated to somewhere between $60 billion and $100 billion.  The chair of the Senate Transportation Committee recently said it could be as much as $350 billion.

  • In 2008, the voters were told that the "bullet" train would make the trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.  We now know that is completely false and may be closer to four hours.

  • In 2008, the voters were told that this "pie-in-the sky" train would sustain 220 mph throughout the entire trip, but we now learn that train speeds will be substantially reduced on key areas of track, and thus, passenger travel time will be longer.

  • In 2008, the voters were told that the cost of a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be around $50 a ticket, but that's also wrong and now projected fares are over a $100 a ticket.

Additionally, a Sacramento Superior Court judge recently ruled that the High-Speed Rail Authority cannot issue any more bonds because there was no evidence whatsoever that the state had or could secure the funding needed to complete even an initial segment of track. In a separate ruling, the judge found that the current funding plan did not conform to the requirements of Proposition 1A and ordered the state to draft a new plan that does.

Voters' attitudes towards the HSR project have changed, with 52 percent of Californians now opposed to the project according to a September 2013 USC/LA Times poll.  This same poll also found that 70 percent of voters want the project put back on the ballot for a revote.

Senate Bill 901 will do just that by temporarily halting the sale of any more state bonds for HSR, and asking the voters on the November 2014 ballot if they would like to permanently stop the state from selling any more bonds for HSR.

Senate Bill 902 - Fair Purchase of Private Property in Path of High-Speed Rail

State and local governments historically have used eminent domain to seize private property that may interfere with a proposed public project.  Under current law the government must provide a landowner with the fair market value of the property that has been seized.  This "fair market value" approach does not take into consideration any liens against the property for investments in the land.  Additionally, the current process does not provide a proper remedy for landowners who may be underwater on their mortgage.

When private property is seized by eminent domain for HSR in the future, Senate Bill 902 would require the state to provide the landowner either the fair market value of the property or the amount of money necessary to discharge all liens on the property, whichever is greater.  This will ensure that previous landowners are not held responsible for any debt that was associated with the property that they no longer legally own.

Senate Bill 903 - Protecting Local Government Finances from High-Speed Rail Land Grab

Local government finances rely on the collection of property taxes to fund vital services such as police, fire and education.  Currently, lands owned by the government do not remit property taxes to counties.  This would mean that any land taken for HSR by eminent domain or by a private sale will be taken off of the property tax rolls, which would be a major loss of revenue for many counties in the Central Valley.

Senate Bill 903 would require that the HSR Authority reimburse counties one percent of the purchase price of the land seized for the project to protect vital local government services.  Like current property taxes, the value of the amount remitted by the HSR Authority to the county will increase by two percent a year to keep up with inflation.

Senate Bill 904 - Landowner's Bill of Rights

Landowners should know who is coming onto their property and why.  Under current law, individuals conducting a land survey for HSR can enter private property without the consent of the landowner and do not have to say why they are there or who hired them.

Senate Bill 904 will provide protections to landowners and respect their private property rights by requiring land surveyors working on the HSR project to obtain the permission of the landowner, as well as identify themselves as either an employee of the HSR Authority or a contract employee of a company working on behalf of the HSR Authority.

Inspired by a visit to a Central Valley employer sited on the HSR route, Vidak launched his "Whistle-Stop-the-High-Speed Rail" tour in October.  He met folks from several businesses and organizations that are in HSR's destructive path.  The legislative package Vidak announced today is the result of the feedback he received on the tour.

"High-Speed Rail is reckless and irresponsible.  It must be stopped," said Vidak.