(AP/KSBY) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s ending the state’s effort to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Newsom said Tuesday in his first State of the State address that it “would cost too much and take too long” to build the line long championed by his predecessor, Jerry Brown. Latest estimates pin the cost at $77 billion and completion in 2033.
Newsom says he wants to continue construction of the high-speed link from Merced to Bakersfield in California’s Central Valley. He says building the line could bring economic transformation to the agricultural region.
He says abandoning that portion of the project would require the state to return $3.5 billion in federal dollars.
Newsom is also replacing Brown’s head of the board that oversees the project and is pledging to hold the project’s contractors more accountable for cost overruns.
When it comes to the recent bankruptcy filing by Pacific Gas & Electric after years of devastating wildfires, the governor says he’ll have a plan for dealing with it within 60 days.
Newsom says he has convened a team of the nation’s best bankruptcy lawyers and financial experts from the energy sector. They will work with his administration to develop what he called a comprehensive strategy.
He’s promising to ensure that safe, affordable power will continue to flow. He says he’ll seek justice for wildfire victims, fairness for the utility’s employees, and protection for ratepayers.
Newsom says the state won’t waver on its ambitious clean energy goals, but must also address the pressure that climate change is putting on utilities.
The governor is also creating a new commission on homelessness and housing to address one of California’s most difficult problems.
Newsom says it’s a moral issue that has also become a public health crisis.
He cited mental illness, drug abuse and recent disease outbreaks and has proposed spending $600 million for homeless care.
Newsom appointed Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to head his Commission on Homelessness & Supportive Housing. Steinberg previously was leader of the state Senate.
Newsom’s administration recently sued Huntington Beach for failing to reach housing goals and says he’ll meet with other city leaders next week. He says he won’t preside over “neglect and denial,” and says cities must provide their fair share of affordable housing.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham released the following statement following Newsom’s address:
“I was glad to see the Governor discuss updating water infrastructure; protecting ratepayers, employees and fire victims during the PG&E bankruptcy; curtailing High Speed Rail; and reforming CEQA to address our state’s housing crisis.
“It is my hope that the Governor encourages bipartisan, independent solutions to our state’s growing list of issues. We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric directed at the federal government. We need to solve problems for Californians.”