AP Story on California High-Speed Rail Legislation's Passage Dodges State's Serious Deficit

It seems that Matt Drudge is a better headline writer than whoever at the Associated Press performed the same task at its story about California lawmakers' passage of "building the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, a multibillion dollar project that will eventually link Los Angeles and San Francisco" -- if sanity doesn't prevail in the meantime.

Since late yesterday, Drudge's home-page headline linking to the AP's story is "Broke California OKs funding for high-speed rail line..." That's a lot more complete than the wire service's "California high-speed rail gets green light." Then again, if the headline writer didn't already know about the state's serious budget situation, he or she wouldn't have learned from reporter Judy Lin, who stayed conveniently vague, as seen in the following excerpt:

California lawmakers gave the green light to start building the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, a multibillion dollar project that will eventually link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The move marked major political victories for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

In a narrow 21-16 party-line vote that involved intense lobbying by the governor, legislative leaders and labor groups, the state Senate approved the measure marking the launch of California's ambitious bullet train, which has spent years in the planning stages.

"The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again," Brown said.

... "No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative."

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. That allows the state to draw another $3.2 billion in federal funding.

... Senate Republicans blasted the decision, citing the state's ongoing budget problems. They said project would push California over a fiscal cliff. No GOP senators voted for the bill Friday.

The final cost of the completed project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is projected to be $68 billion.

Estimates of the ultimate cost were in the neighborhood of $100 billion until a few months ago, when the California High Speed Rail Authority’s revised business plan, as if by magic, revised it down to the $68 billion Lin cited.

As to the vaguely referenced "ongoing budget problems," it's a bit more than a mere "problem." Two months ago, the state announced that it was facing a budget deficit of $16 billion. A Los Angeles Times item on Monday revealed that the state's plans for closing it are based on very dubious assumptions and are highly dependent on changes in federal tax policy which are by no means assured and considered unlikely. That's even before considering the fact that any inherent assumptions that the nation's economy on the whole will help the state recover are shaky at best.

Lin owed her readers, and the AP's headline writer, far more context than she provided, as well the actual deficit number, so that readers could evaluate for themselves whether or not the state is being irresponsible. But it's reasonable to believe that she didn't want that to happen.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.