WASHINGTON — In a vote Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives unanimously passed U.S. Representative Jeff Denham’s (R-Turlock) amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill nullifying the current grant agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the California High Speed Rail Authority (Authority).
“This amendment will finally hold California High Speed Rail accountable for its finances,” said Rep. Denham. “The project is several decades behind schedule, nearly $70 billion over budget, and will not meet the speeds, travel times, or ridership levels promised to voters. No longer will they be able to accept a hamburger today for payment on Tuesday.”
When FRA initially awarded the Authority with nearly $3 billion in federal grant dollars under the federal stimulus package, it entered in to a standard grant agreement with the Authority requiring a dollar for dollar match. This agreement stipulated that for every federal tax dollar spent, the Authority must spend a dollar from a non-federal source. California never came up with the money and subsequently missed payment deadline after payment deadline. In order to avoid violating the Federal Deficiency Act, the FRA quietly amended their grant agreement in December of 2012 to allow for a tapered match – allowing federal dollars to be spent in advance of any matching dollars, despite having no assurances from the Authority that the matching dollars would ever exist. The FRA’s Inspector General has subsequently criticized FRA for jeopardizing federal taxpayer dollars with this scheme. This amendment guarantees that the FRA must enter in to an agreement that requires the Authority to match, dollar for dollar, federal tax dollars in current fiscal years.