| Sept 2
Sept 2 Opponents of California's controversial
$68 billion high-speed rail project petitioned the California
Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguing a court of appeals decision
ignored the financial protections of voters.
The plaintiffs, which include a farmer, a landowner and
Kings County, requested the state's Supreme Court examine an
earlier appeals court decision that allowed municipal bonds to
fund high-speed rail.
Also on Tuesday, the Third District Court of Appeal denied a
request for rehearing the case.
Stuart Flashman, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs, said
the California legislature had made specific promises to voters
in Proposition 1A, a 2008 ballot measure that proposed to
partially fund high-speed rail through almost $10 billion of
bonds. Those promises had not been met, thereby breaking the
contract between the government and voters, Flashman said.
In 2013, a lower court agreed with the plaintiffs and
stopped the issuance of voter-approved bonds, finding that the
project's plan failed to secure sufficient funding and meet
environmental requirements. But the court of appeals overturned
the decision in August.
"If this decision is allowed to stand, not only would
billions of dollars of taxpayer funds be placed at risk in this
project, but voters will lose confidence in promises made to
them in future bond measures," Flashman said in a statement.
Financial analyst Tom Rubin warned the court's decision
"ignores very specific safeguards that were included in the
statewide ballot measure" and shows "agencies have freedom to
ignore what they feel like ignoring." As a result, there would
be broad repercussions from the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal
bond market, including reducing the value of California's
outstanding debt and increasing the interest rates on future
Proponents of California's largest infrastructure project,
including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, on Tuesday called for an
end to the legal saga, arguing that high-speed rail would move
forward in compliance with the law and despite opponents'
determination to use "any means possible" to stop the project.
"Opponents still hope to thwart the will of the people, yet
we remained committed to this program and the environmental and
economic benefits it brings to California," California
High-Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said in a
Once completed in 2029, high-speed rail promises to
transport passengers 500 miles (800 km) across the state in
under three hours.
(Reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)