Sacramento – Today (9) the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) has petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the high speed rail bond validation case.
After radically changing the bullet train plan promised to voters who approved $10 billion in bonds in 2008 the State asked the court to approve sale of the bonds anyway. HJTA responded on behalf of all Californians saying the rail plan no longer matches what was promised voters and the State’s request should be denied. The trial court agreed and denied the State’s request for validation of the bond sale. The Court of Appeals has reversed this decision and HJTA is now asking for intervention by the Supreme Court.
The current plan for high speed rail is nearly twice as expensive as promised and the projected travel times and fairs have nearly doubled.
“The state has broken faith with voters” said HJTA President Jon Coupal. “The current rail plan bears no resemblance to the one put before voters in 2008″
Similar conduct by a private entity could be prosecuted under California’s bait and switch law which states in brief that It is unlawful for any person firm corporation or association to make untrue or misleading statements as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell property or services at the price advertised” added Coupal.
In November 2008 California voters approved $10 billion in bonds to build the first segment of a bullet train system that according to the ballot materials would whisk riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under 2å_ hours for about $50 per person. The $43 billion system would be built with federal and private matching funds and would be self-funding once operational requiring no new taxes or government subsidies.
After the High Speed Rail Authority radically revised its business and development plan so that it no longer resembled the project approved by voters the State filed a validation action High Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons asking the court to approve the sale of the bonds. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) responded on behalf of “all persons.”
HJTA is fighting the sale of the rail bonds because the State’s current plans for the money break almost every promise made to the voters in 2008. The estimated cost of construction has increased by $25 billion. The federal government has pledged only a trifle and private investors are not interested at all. A revised business plan has scrapped the idea of 220 mph trains operating on their own track in favor of slower trains partly sharing existing track with standard passenger and freight trains. Ridership projections have been reduced which means less ticket-sale revenue which means higher ticket prices and annual taxpayer subsidies.
The measure approved by the voters required some oversight. An independent Finance Committee was supposed to review the proposed bond sale and approve it only if all prerequisites were met. The evidence at trial showed that the Finance Committee did not do its job. It rubber stamped the sale without ever holding a hearing to consider whether the promises in the ballot were being kept.
In January the trial court ruled in our favor of HJTA on the grounds that the Finance Committee’s approval of the sale of bonds was not supported by any evidence in the record. The court entered judgment denying validation of the bond sale-a huge win for taxpayers. The State then unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to step in and vacate the trial court judgment. The Supreme Court instead referred the case to its usual next step the Court of Appeal.
The appellate court has now reversed the finding of the trial court which is why HJTA is asking for review by the Supreme Court.