After nearly two decades of debate, the decision to move ahead on the California high-speed rail project will come down to a state Senate vote this afternoon that could be decided by one or two members.
The Senate will have to accept an $8 billion measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, reject it or come up with a new spending plan of its own for the project. The state Assembly approved Brown’s plan on Thursday.
Democratic leaders are attempting to jam wavering Senators into a difficult position of falling in line behind the Brown plan or risking playing chicken with the federal government on an alternative plan.
The Obama administration has warned that it would rescind $3.2 billion in grants and appropriations if the Legislature does not act to approve major construction in the Central Valley and do it before adjourning for the summer recess.
But nobody is sure whether Brown has the votes he needs to get his plan through the Senate. Dan Richard, the state rail authority chairman, was in hyper drive on Thursday lobbying for the Brown plan. Organized labor was similarly in high gear promoting one of its biggest priorities of the year.
The Brown plan would require 21 of the 25 Senate Democrats to approve, it and vote counters are guessing that there are potentially more than a half dozen defectors among the Democrats.
-- Ralph Vartabedian and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times