By Pete Kasperowicz
Ten House Republicans from California are proposing to pull back millions in unspent federal funds meant for California's high-speed rail project until a feasibility study is done on the effort to link San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major California cities by rail.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the lead sponsor of the bill, a sign that it has the strong potential to be considered by the House. McCarthy said the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently delayed its business plan, and that this, along with lingering questions about the viability of the project, means a delay is in order.
"Responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars is always important, and now more than ever," he said. "We cannot afford to throw money we don't have at a project most don't have confidence in. That's why I introduced this legislation, so we can take a step back and figure out what high-speed rail really means for taxpayers."
His bill, H.R. 3143, would pull back $715 million in unobligated federal funding for the project, and any of the $2.9 billion in funding that has been obligated but not spent. It would also require a Government Accountability Office study to assess the feasibility of the project, which would include an examination of ridership projections, future costs and subsidies needed for the project, ticket prices, and how the cost of rail travel in the state compares to other modes of transportation.
Other Republican sponsors of the bill made it clear they already believe that the project is not worthy of additional federal spending.
"Facing enormous deficits and a faltering economy after the failure of the 2009 stimulus bill, we simply can't afford to throw billions at a project that looks like a breeding ground for waste and abuse of taxpayer funds," said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). "Until certain questions are answered, having this project move forward is a mistake. Legislation calling for a timeout is clearly necessary."
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) added that in light of the fiscal crisis, the government should "absolutely not be wasting even more money on a very expensive high-speed train from nowhere to nowhere."