Candidate Now Opposes Rail Bond Measure He Wrote


In an unusual twist, the author of a $1-billion rail bond act is now opposing his own proposal and seeking to have it removed from the statewide election ballot.

Assemblyman Jim Costa (D-Fresno), in the midst of a spirited state Senate campaign, is urging Gov. Pete Wilson to delay the vote on Proposition 181 until 1996, a request that the governor thus far has opposed.

In a letter to the governor released Wednesday, Costa cited the state’s “current economic situation and the voters’ opposition to increased bond debt” for his reversal. In the June primary, voters rejected four bond measures.


With that in mind, Costa and other lawmakers have grown increasingly wary of putting new spending proposals before voters. Last week, on the eve of the summer legislative recess, Costa sought to rally lawmakers to reschedule the rail proposal, which would pay for rights of way and intercity trains.

When his last-minute bid failed, Costa complained that Wilson’s opposition “made it impossible to remove the bond measure” before lawmakers left town.

Costa has played a role in funding rail projects since 1989, when he sponsored a law that placed rail bonds on the ballot in 1990, 1992 and 1994. Voters passed the first proposal but rejected the second bond in 1992, creating a $1-billion backlog in transportation projects, Costa said.

Paul Kranhold, a spokesman for the governor, said that when voters approved the 1990 bond, they also agreed to place the two other rail proposals on future ballots. He said Wilson does not want to tamper with that earlier decision and remove Costa’s bond from the ballot.

The bond election comes at a particularly sensitive moment for Costa. He is trying to unseat first-term state Sen. Phil Wyman (R-Tehachapi) in the conservative San Joaquin Valley’s 16th Senate District. Costa lost to Wyman in a hotly contested 1993 special election.

In a news release, Wyman suggested that Costa was changing his mind on the bond because “it wasn’t a good idea to have his name connected to another $1 billion in red ink in November.”


Margaret Gladstein, a Costa campaign consultant, said Costa now plans to vote against his own proposal if it remains on the November ballot. However, she denied that Costa has changed his mind about rail bonds because of politics, maintaining that he believes that it is not the right time for the state to take on more debt to pay for rail projects.