Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2000-01 Budget Bill

High-Speed Rail Authority

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) is responsible for developing and implementing an intercity high-speed rail service that is fully integrated with the state's existing mass transportation network. The California High-Speed Rail Act of 1996 (Chapter 796, Statutes of 1996 [SB 1420, Kopp]), established HSRA as an independent authority consisting of nine members appointed by the Legislature and Governor. The HSRA is required to develop and submit a plan to the Legislature and Governor to finance, construct, and operate a statewide intercity high-speed rail network.

The budget proposes expenditures of $1 million for support of HSRA in 2000-01. This is a reduction of $2 million, or 67 percent, below estimated current-year expenditures. The reduction is based on the assumption that all consulting work will be completed by the end of 1999-00.

Planning Work of High-Speed Rail Authority Complete

We recommend that $1 million be deleted because the High-Speed Rail Authority expects to submit a business plan to the Legislature and Governor by the end of the current year, and no additional statutorily required work remains for the authority in 2000-01. (Reduce Item 2665-001-0046 by $1 million.)

High-Speed Rail Authority to Sunset. Chapter 796 requires the authority to submit a business plan to the Legislature and Governor for the construction and operation of a high-speed rail system. Thereafter, the authority will sunset June 30, 2001, unless before that date the business plan is approved by the Legislature by enactment of legislation, or approved by voters through a statewide referendum.

Business Plan to Be Submitted; Authority Has Met Its Responsibilities. In January 2000, HSRA released a draft business plan for a 90-day public comment period before the final plan is delivered to the Legislature. The HSRA indicates that it will submit a final business plan to the Legislature and Governor before the end of the current fiscal year.

The draft plan describes a 700-mile long high-speed train system, with a "highest return on investment" route identified along corridors connecting San Francisco, Sacramento, Merced, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego. Furthermore, the draft plan recommends that the Legislature authorize work to be initiated for a state-level, program-wide environmental impact report on the high-speed train network. The draft business plan also includes: a time line for design, programming, and construction; a forecast of potential ridership and revenues for interregional travel; costs for the construction and operation of the system; a benefit-cost analysis; and scenarios for funding the high-speed rail system.

Our review finds that HSRA has met its statutory responsibilities and, absent further direction and responsibilities assigned by the Legislature, will have no additional tasks to perform in 2000-01. Reflecting this, the budget does not propose any further work by HSRA in 2000-01, but provides $1 million for ongoing support of 5.5 personnel-years. Unless the Legislature and Governor decide to proceed with the next phase of high-speed rail development, it is unknown what work the authority will pursue over the next year.

If the Legislature Decides to Proceed with High-Speed Rail Development, Legislation Necessary. If the Legislature and Governor determine that the state should proceed with high-speed rail development, legislation would be necessary to specify the next phase of work to be done. This legislation should also specify the entity that would administer the new task and provide funding accordingly. The next phase of implementation may or may not need to be administered by HSRA. Depending on decisions made by the Legislature and Governor, high-speed rail development may be carried out by some other administrative entity.

Recommendation. Because HSRA will be submitting a business plan to the Legislature and Governor before the end of the current fiscal year, it will have no additional responsibilities and workload for the budget year. Consequently, there is no reason to continue funding the authority. Accordingly, we recommend deleting $1 million from the budget (reduce Item 2665-001-0046 by $1 million).

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