Jerry Brown must be stomping around his Colusa County ranch at the moment. His successor, Gov. Gavin Newsom, just threw two of Brown’s big, visionary projects — the high-speed rail line from San Diego to Sacramento and the twin water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — under the political bus during his first State of the State speech Tuesday.
After professing respect for the vision for a bullet train that would whisk people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a few hours, Newsom said: “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and take too long.”
Instead, Newsom said he will cut back the project to the Merced-to-Bakersfield leg that is already underway, then use it as the economic engine to unlock the economic potential of the Central Valley. What that means exactly is not clear, but it would probably involve more housing development and increased pressure on existing agriculture.
Newsom also said that he will not support two delta tunnels. Instead, he supports a single tunnel approach such as the proposal floated a year ago. (The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board endorsed the two-tunnel solution but is open to a single tunnel.)
Does this make Newsom more practical than Brown? No, just a leader with different priorities. Brown believed in making large investments in infrastructure that may pay dividends for generations to come, but not so much in expanding social programs that might pay off immediately.
Newsom has made clear during the campaign and now, in his first State of the State speech, that he is of the opposite opinion.