Defying the feds on Tenth Amendment grounds was once California’s specialty. No more, now that the broken Golden State is suing the Trump administration to make off with nearly a billion dollars for a high-speed rail boondoggle.
It’s not a good look, California. After “a decade of lies and deception from Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority,” as the Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial boards put it, the state is so incontinent, even groveling to the feds would require too much integrity.
Governor Gavin Newsom is suing the Trump administration to stop the cancellation of $928.6 million in Federal Railroad Administration funds for a high-speed rail project that has already received over $2.5 billion from the FRA.
The long-awaited rail project has shrunk to a fragment of what was promised in 2008 when California voters were (easily) duped into approving state bonds for the ultimately unaffordable train of the future.
The state of fruits and nuts hasn’t always been so cringe-worthy. Remember when California set the precedent for marijuana nullification? It’s taken for granted now that states can effectively ignore federal prohibitions, but California was the first and only to do so in 1996.
That’s how the American system of government should work, and the other states needed California to remind them of their sovereignty. But Nullifornia is canceled, much like the majority of the train project seems to be, just like its federal funding. Now other states should take California as an example of how not to resist DC.
Setting aside for a moment legalizing marijuana, which failed to meet half of the projected $1 billion to fill California’s tax coffers in year one, the big laugh here is that Governor Newsom himself admitted the high-speed rail cost overruns were fatal. In his State of the State address in February, Newsom indefinitely suspended the project, except for a pitiful line from Bakersfield to Merced in the Central Valley.
“Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA,” he said.
So, the Trump administration has acknowledged that California can’t meet its requirement to have 119 miles of track laid by 2022. As Mercury News notes, the federal grant doesn’t amount to 5 percent of the cost to complete just that part of the project. Private funding had been promised but hasn’t come through.
The total cost of California’s high-speed rail was recently estimated to be $77 billion, far above the original $64 billion.
States must resist Washington, DC, but they also must resist turning into California, especially as Californians flee their state. Yet, in recent history, California remains among the best examples for how to effectively say “No” to federal overreach. For the sake of a more perfect union, states must assert their sovereignty, and the federal government must not hesitate to let them fail on their merits.