Patterson bill to tighten high-speed rail spending falls in committee

The Fresno BeeMarch 24, 2014 

Jim Patterson


The Assembly Transportation Committee turned down a bill by Assembly Member Jim Patterson to prohibit spending federal grant money on a high-speed train project until the state's High-Speed Rail Authority has approved matching funds.

Patterson and his fellow Republicans on the committee were outvoted 8-4 on Monday afternoon. Several committee members were absent, but not enough to catch up to the "no" votes on Assembly Bill 1501. Patterson had urged the committee to allow the bill to move on to the Appropriations Committee, which oversees the state's spending.

The Federal Railroad Administration has put up more than $3 billion in stimulus and transportation funds to start construction of California's high-speed rail system in the San Joaquin Valley. The state is required to come up with almost $3 billion to match that contribution, but the FRA has so far allowed California to front-load the spending of the federal money until the state is able to meet its matching obligations.

The rail authority anticipates using money from Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by voters in 2008, for its matching money as it tries to begin construction this year. But the sale of the Prop. 1A bonds is tied up in court amid legal challenges over whether the state's rail plan complies with the bond measure.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, or @tsheehan on Twitter.

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