California’s high speed rail project is an embodiment of virtually everything wrong with state government.
Already $1.7 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule on the Central Valley portion alone, the bullet train reeks of cronyism, inefficient central planning, misplaced priorities and squandering of finite resources. Yet, it persists, despite obvious problems.
On Nov. 14, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, requested an emergency audit of the bullet train. The request came as high speed rail authorities reported that environmental reviews of the 800-mile project won’t be completed until at least 2020, two years later than planned.
Against a backdrop of significant delays and escalating costs, Patterson’s request sought to answer some fundamental questions about the project. Among the questions raised by Patterson: “What are the Authority’s demonstrable policies, practices, and personnel to generate reliable budget estimates for ongoing construction contracts?”
One would think that such questions would be fair game for state auditors to review. But on Nov. 27, Assembly Democrat and Legislative Audit Committee Chairman Al Muratsuchi informed Patterson that his request for an emergency audit was rejected.
“Because the Legislature is not in session, the audit request was denied to ensure transparency and to give members of the committee and the public the opportunity to have a say in the decision,” said Muratsuchi.
Muratsuchi has invited Patterson to request an audit in January, which Patterson intends to do.
With as much money on the line, and a clear track record of problems for the bullet train, we hope that Patterson’s request is given fair consideration and is ultimately granted.
In recent years, audit requests have consistently been rejected, generally along party lines, or haven’t gone anywhere. This includes a 2016 request by Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, in which his request was voted down 7-3.
In that bid, Senators Jim Beall, Cathleen Galgiani and Ricardo Lara, and Assemblymembers Nora Campos, Mike Gibson, Adrin Nazarian and Jim Wood, all Democrats, voted against the audit. Only Sen. Jean Fuller and Assemblymembers Catharine Baker and Brian Jones, all Republicans, backed the request.
Let’s hope that partisanship doesn’t continue to get in the way of basic transparency and accountability, because in addition to all the problems that have become apparent in recent years about the project, previous audits have…