Schwarzenegger says he’ll sign high-speed rail measure |

Schwarzenegger says he’ll sign high-speed rail measure

Steve Lawrence / The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO – Backing off his pledge to sign no bills before lawmakers adopt a state budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to approve legislation designed to strengthen wording of the high-speed rail measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“The governor believes that just because the Legislature’s two months overdue on its job, that shouldn’t keep Californians from voting on these important measures,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said Tuesday.

He said Schwarzenegger would sign the bill later Tuesday or today.

The Republican governor announced Aug. 6 that he would sign no bills sent to him before lawmakers approved an overdue budget. He had hoped the threat that their bills could end up being vetoed would force lawmakers to compromise.

But on Monday night, Schwarzenegger sent legislative leaders a letter urging them to immediately send him four bills so he could sign them in time to put them on the November ballot.

Besides the high-speed rail bill, he asked for passage of a $9.3 billion water bond and bills to implement his plans to increase state lottery revenue and create a special reserve fund as a way to avoid future budget deficits.

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The high-speed rail bill, by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, is the only one of the four that’s anywhere close to going to the governor’s desk. Lawmakers approved it Aug. 13 but have been holding on to it and dozens of other bills because of Schwarzenegger’s veto threat.

The Galgiani legislation would modify Proposition 1, which would provide $9.9 billion to pay for a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route – the first leg of the proposed high-speed rail line.

Among other things, the bill would establish a panel of experts on high-speed rail systems in Europe and Asia to evaluate the state’s construction plans.

Other key provisions would limit how much of the bond money could be spent on administration and environmental and engineering studies. It also would require the state’s high-speed rail board to prepare detailed funding plans before starting construction of each segment of the line, which eventually would extend to San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland.

The 700-mile system is projected to cost $40 billion to complete.

The revised measure would be called Proposition 1a.

Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said lawmakers could include the bill’s language in a supplemental ballot pamphlet, although that would add millions to election costs and get the information to voters “significantly later” than usual.

Folmar said Bowen had estimated earlier that a supplemental pamphlet covering two ballot measures would cost between $4 million and $11.7 million, depending on its size and when it was mailed. Folmar did not have a cost estimate for a pamphlet containing just one measure.

Lawmakers were supposed to approve a new budget by June 15, but the toothless constitutional deadline frequently is missed, mainly because California requires a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to pass a budget.

The new fiscal year started July 1, leaving the state unable to pay many of its bills, including payments to businesses that supply state prisons and hospitals, paychecks for certain state employees and some payments to schools.

Schwarzenegger and Democrats have proposed a combination of cuts and tax increases to erase a $15.2 billion budget deficit. Republicans have balked at approving any tax increases but have yet to offer an alternative.

In a response to the governor’s letter, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said it was “time for the governor to stop sending letters and holding press conferences and start getting votes from legislators of his own party so the state can move forward on these critical issues.”

She has agreed to send the high-speed rail bill to the governor for signing, said Bass spokesman Steve Maviglio.