California's distressed state budget will have to allot more than $700 million each year to repay billions of dollars that officials plan to borrow to build the first phase of a proposed bullet train, a nonpartisan government research office has found.
The repayment projection by the state legislative analyst's office includes principal and interest on $9.95 billion in high-speed rail bonds approved by voters in 2008. The figure is higher than in the past — partly because of higher borrowing rates — and does not count millions of dollars already being paid annually on about $500 million in debt incurred to plan the system.
The new estimate is part of an analysis of a proposed statewide vote on the controversial $98.5-billion fast-train link between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The bullet train's impact on the cash-strapped state general fund budget, which funds schools and other basic services, could be a major point of contention in the Legislature this year.
-- Ralph Vartabedian and Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times