Could the High Speed Rail Ruling Imperil the Water Bond?

Proposition 1, the $7 billion water bond, has broad support from both Democrats and Republicans.  Unlike the previous version of the bond – which had an $11 billion cost – the updated version has less pork and a few more promises for actual water storage.  While HJTA opposed the previous version (and indeed we signed the ballot argument against it) we have taken no position on Proposition 1.  Our neutrality is compelled, at least in part, by the recognition that California does indeed have legitimate needs for improvements in our statewide water infrastructure.

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But now we have a new concern.

The California Supreme Court has recently declined to hear an appeal in one of the many lawsuits challenging the California’s High Speed Rail project.  This is a case we originally won in the trial court which blocked the issuance of the High Speed Rail bonds because the project bore no relationship to the project that was promised to the voters back in 2008.  But in a ruling that stunned taxpayers, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court which correctly found that the Constitution expressly requires the state prove that issuance of the bonds is “necessary or desirable.”   This constitutional mandate ensures that government lives up to the promises it makes to the voters.

A proper interpretation of the California Constitution would require voter approval of, not just the amount of the debt, but specification of the project to be funded.  In our lawsuit, we argued that the current HSR plan so deviates from the proposal presented to voters in 2008 that voter approval of the former proposal should not be deemed approval of today’s plan.  We presented evidence showing that today’s plan is not the true high-speed train that voters were promised.  The HSR bond measure promised that the project would be built with federal and private matching funds.  But today’s plan calls for a system that is not truly “high speed” and is funded primarily by California taxpayers.  (And, by the way, the projected costs have now tripled).

So how does the high court’s inaction impact today’s Proposition 1, the Water Bond?  The fact that the judiciary will not uphold expressed requirements in a bond proposal raises the specter that, no matter what a bond proposal promises about what will be built with the bond proceeds, those promises are meaningless.  In other words, when California voters are asked to approve a bond, are they just approving debt for any purpose at all?  This is the very definition of a blank check.

As the result of California Courts refusing to uphold the language of the High Speed Rail bonds, the opponents of any bond proposal, at either the state or local level, need only point to High-Speed Rail to remind voters that promises in a voter approved bond proposal are meaningless and unenforceable.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This article originally appeared on


  1. The government: city, county, state and federal no longer operate in the INTEREST of the PEOPLE – they operate in spite of them and make decisions based on whatever benefits them, NOT THE PEOPLE!
    All levels of government have focused on their own self importance and the PEOPLE are only a source for more funding, no longer viewed as their employers they seek to benefit and serve!
    Please explain why voters keep electing the same INCUMBENTS that lie, ignore and continue to create new ways to tax them?

  2. Vote NO in 2014!

  3. I shall vote NO on anything that increases or has potential to increase costs until there are corresponding CUTS!

  4. Your brains are required, not your tree hugging qualifications.
    Please Vote NO on anything our present state government wants to do. A yes to any action proposed will only result in more jobs lost and increased risk for our state’s credit rating, let alone diversion of our most precious resource to unregulated users. That no vote should also be applied to every proposition and measure.

  5. We need to be very concerned about the water and forget the High Speed
    Rail as it will be far too expensive to implement and for fares – WE NEED WATER!!!!!

  6. The state Government is determined to have a fast rail system, and could care less if we have water, There has been a water issue for at least 30 years. These idiots in Sacramento will only do something if there is a crisis, we need to rid ourselves, of this do nothing Legislature….

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