Gov. Gavin Newsom called the move by President Trump ‘political retribution.’
Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced in his “State of the State” address at the California State Capitol in Sacramento that he was abandoning the state’s high-speed rail system because it was too expensive.
The project has ballooned to $77 billion.
“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”
Newsom said the state would still build a portion of the system under construction in the rural Central Valley, denying that it would be a “train to nowhere”, according to Breitbart.” Adding that the state had to continue the project if it wanted to keep the federal funds it had taken: “I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”
The president disagreed with Newsom, and took immediate action.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it was canceling a federal grant to California worth nearly $1 billion after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the cancellation of the state’s high-speed rail project last week.
The president took to Twitter to demand that California return the money. Newsom rejected that demand, insisting: “This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back.”
“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” the president tweeted. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!”
California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2019
Newsom responded that it was “California’s money”:
Fake news. We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond.
This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back.
The train is leaving the station — better get on board!
(Also, desperately searching for some wall $$??) https://t.co/9hxEfEX8Vm
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 14, 2019
But on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sent a letter to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, informing it that it was terminating its agreement with the state and therefore would refuse to provide the state with $928,620,000 allocated to the high-speed rail project.
The FRA listed several factors informing its decision, including the likelihood that the high-speed rail would not be completed by 2022, as contemplated by the original agreement. The state’s high-speed rail authority had also failed, according to the FRA, to provide “timely and satisfactory financial reports” to the federal government.
The Los Angeles Times reported additionally that the Department of Transportation said it was “actively exploring every legal option” to recover the other $2.5 billion granted by the federal government to California for the project.
Newsom complained angrily that Trump was carrying out “political retribution” for California’s legal challenge Monday to his emergency declaration to build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. He reiterated: “This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it,” according to a statement quoted by the Times.