In July, billionaire CEO and gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman came out in opposition to the voter-approved plan to build the nation’s first high-speed rail system in California. Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said that Whitman opposes the project because the state can’t “afford” high-speed rail.
But with one in eight Californians out of work, the truth is we can’t afford NOT to build the high-speed rail. The construction and operation of the rail system is projected to create 160,000 construction jobs and as many as 450,000 permanent jobs statewide, including in the economically depressed Central Valley. Additionally, high-speed rail would make California businesses more competitive, by speeding the movement of goods and people throughout the state, enabling businesses to attract workers, and propelling California tourism.
Whitman’s claim that California can’t afford high-speed rail – like most other statements from her campaign – is completely disingenuous. In fact, high-speed rail is already paid for – voters approved Proposition 1A in 2008, which allocated $9.95 billion in bonds to the high-speed rail project. Whitman also failed to take into account the more than $2 billion the state has received from the federal government to build the rail. If Whitman has her way and the project is stalled, California will owe billions back to the federal government – and that’s something we certainly can’t afford.
California’s high-speed rail project is precisely the kind of spark our state’s economy needs. Not only would it create good-paying jobs up and down the state, it has the potential to bring manufacturing back to California, while simultaneously lessening highway congestion, reducing pollution and lowering our dependence on fossil fuels. That’s why a broad coalition of business, labor, local governments and environmentalists – as well as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown — all support the construction of high-speed rail in California for its economic, environmental, business and revenue benefits.
Brown has been advocating for more environmentally friendly transportation initiatives for the better part of three decades, and is a staunch advocate for high-speed rail and other green infrastructure projects. He recognizes that investing in infrastructure directly helps California’s working families by putting people to work, protecting our environment, improving our day-to-day lives and attracting more new businesses to California.
By comparison, Whitman’s opposition to high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects shows how dangerously out of touch she is with the economic realities facing so many California families. She continues to talk about fiscal austerity, while at the same time touting huge tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, which would bleed the state of billions of dollars every year. Whitman seems perfectly content with giving her millionaire friends tax breaks, but when it comes to creating jobs for Californians, she’s staunchly opposed.
That sort of philosophy is not surprising coming from a career corporate executive with close ties to Wall Street. Job slashing to benefit the corporate elite has become the norm in Whitman’s Wall Street culture. But it’s an incredibly dangerous and damaging proposition for California. Learn more about Whitman’s jobs plan.