U.S. House of Representatives Unanimously Passes Amendment Proposed by Congressman Jeff Denham to Nullify California High-Speed Rail Grant Agreement
Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) received a press release this morning (June 10, 2015) from the office of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham, who represents many residents of the Central Valley concerned about the financial waste, ill-conceived route alignment, and relentless property takings of California High-Speed Rail.
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In a vote Tuesday evening (June 10, 2015), the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed Congressman Jeff Denham’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill nullifying the current grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
“This amendment will finally hold California High-Speed Rail accountable for its finances,” said Rep. Denham. “The project is several decades behind schedule, nearly $70 billion over budget, and will not meet the speeds, travel times, or ridership levels promised to voters. No longer will they be able to accept a hamburger today for payment on Tuesday.”
Specifically, the amendment prohibits any appropriated federal funds from being used for high-speed rail in the state of California or for administering a grant agreement that includes a “tapered” match (described below).
When the Federal Railroad Administration initially awarded the Authority with nearly $3 billion in federal grant dollars under the federal stimulus package, it entered into a standard grant agreement with the Authority requiring a dollar-for-dollar match. This agreement stipulated that for every federal tax dollar spent, the Authority must spend a dollar from a non-federal source. California never came up with the money and subsequently missed payment deadline after payment deadline.
In order to avoid violating the Federal Deficiency Act, the Federal Railroad Administration quietly amended its grant agreement in December 2012 to allow for a tapered match – allowing federal dollars to be spent in advance of any matching dollars – despite having no assurances from the California High-Speed Rail Authority that the matching dollars would ever exist. The FRA’s Inspector General has subsequently criticized FRA for jeopardizing federal taxpayer dollars with this scheme. This amendment guarantees that the FRA must enter into an agreement that requires the Authority to match, dollar-for-dollar, federal tax dollars in current fiscal years.
Congressman Denham has repeatedly introduced legislation to stop the California High-Speed Rail Authority from continuing to waste billions in taxpayer dollars. In June 2012 and June 2014, he offered an amendment suspending federal funding for California High-Speed Rail. It passed each year. He also successfully added an amendment to the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7) in February 2012 ensuring that money in highway bills could not be spent on California High-Speed Rail. In January 2014, Rep. Denham introduced the Responsible Rail and Deterring Deficiency Act, which would suspend all federal funding to California High-Speed Rail.