Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014 – 10:17 pm

The Legislature kept Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet bullet train project alive by allocating $250 million from “cap-and-trade” greenhouse gas fees on business in the new state budget.

It also agreed to give the project 25 percent of future fees, whatever they may be – somewhat less than the one-third the governor had sought.

So it means that the bullet train is on track? Hardly.

The official price tag for the north-south train is $68 billion, but that’s probably a low-ball figure, and the revenue stream from fees would, even with generous estimates, cover just a small fraction of the cost.

The new money would ease the project’s current squeeze from a court-ordered freeze on state bond funds and a legal requirement that the state must begin providing matching money for a few billion dollars in federal funds to lay the first stretch of unelectrified track in the San Joaquin Valley.

In other words, it buys Brown and his appointees on the High-Speed Rail Authority some temporary breathing room while they fight multiple lawsuits – and some adverse rulings – contending that the project doesn’t meet the seemingly strict conditions laid down in the 2008 authorizing bond measure.

However, the cap-and-trade money is less than certain, because the legality of those levies is being contested in court and no one really knows how many hard dollars they will generate, if found to be legal.

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