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Thursday, Jan 16 2014 05:01 PM

Bill would suspend federal high-speed rail funding

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    By California High Speed Rail Authority

    An artist's conception of the bullet train speeding under the Tehachapi Pass.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday would suspend federal funding for California high-speed rail until the state produces its $2.7 billion share of an existing agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and co-sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, would capitalize on a Sacramento Superior Court ruling in November that stopped the state from spending bond money on the project.

The FRA has committed more than $3 billion in stimulus and transportation money for the project, which is planned to link Los Angeles and San Francisco with trains traveling up to 220 mph by 2029.

But how to pay for the $68.5 billion project continues to be a big question in Sacramento and Washington.

Although California voters approved a 2008 bond measure to provide $9 billion for the project, the November court ruling halted the state from spending any of that money until project officials redo their 2011 funding plan, including specifying how they will pay for the rest of the project.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $250 million from California's cap-and-trade pollution credit program to help cover the state's share.

For their part, Republicans in Washington have pledged to block any further federal grants to the project. The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by the House Wednesday contains no money for high-speed rail.

McCarthy said in a news release that the bill introduced Thursday, H.R. 3893, is intended to keep the rail project from moving forward.

"I've fought to protect California taxpayers from this boondoggle which could potentially leave them on the hook for billions of dollars," he stated.

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