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Denham: No more federal spending on California High Speed Rail
Rail pic
Rep. Denham introduced new legislation on Thursday aiming to suspend federal funding for California High Speed Rail. - photo by Photo Contributed

Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) does not want to see any more federal dollars spent on the California High Speed Rail project until the state can find matching funds.

On Thursday, Rep. Denham introduced new legislation HR 3893, or the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, aiming to suspend federal funding for the project until sufficient non-federal funds are available. According to Denham’s office, the bill has the support of every member of the California Republican delegation.

“As I noted in yesterday’s hearing, this legislation is about priorities,” said Rep. Denham. “It’s about ensuring that federal dollars are being spent wisely and that the failure of the California High Speed Rail Authority to secure adequate state and private money does not put federal funds at risk for other critical state needs, such as infrastructure, water and education from the State of California.”

Under the agreement terms between the California High Speed Rail Authority and the Federal Railroad Administration, federal spending on the project must be matched by state bonds. A November ruling by Sacramento judge Michael Kenny, however, denied the Authority’s funding plan, ruling that nearly $10 billion in Prop1A bonds could not be issued. Without the Prop1A bonds, the Authority was left without a path to generate the state funds required under the agreement.

Rep. Denham, who serves as the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Committee,  has repeatedly expressed his concern with the funding of the project as more than $3 billion in federal funds have already been committed to the rail construction to date.

In his new bill, Rep. Denham states that the Authority may not only be unable to meet the contributory match percentage for funding, but also incapable of completing the project according to the project schedules found in the initial agreement.

Based on these determinations, the bill would require that the Federal Railroad Administration suspend any further financial assistance for the project until the Authority certifies in writing that it has access to state or other non-federal funds that are free and clear of any legal challenge or hindrance to expenditure. Additionally, the funds would be required to be available at the time necessary to meet the Authority’s financial obligations as described in the grant agreement.

Furthermore, the bill would prohibit the Federal Railroad Administration from amending the terms of the grant agreement until the above conditions were met.

“The California Republican delegation and I are united,” said Rep. Denham. “It is time to suspend federal spending on the California High Speed Rail.”