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Calif. Senate OKs delaying high-speed rail vote

(The Associated Press distributed the following article on May 19.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Legislation that would delay a public vote on nearly $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.

The bill by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, would move the $9.95 billion bond measure from this November's ballot to the November ballot in 2006.

If approved by voters, the bond measure would generate $9 billion to help pay for the first leg of a 700-mile high-speed rail system that would link California's major cities with trains running at top speeds of 220 mph.

The rest of the bond money would be used for improvements to light rail and inner-city passenger systems.

The first leg of the high-speed system would run between Los Angeles and the San Francisco area, with later links reaching Sacramento and San Diego.

Former Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation in 2002 putting the measure on the November 2004 ballot, but the state's continuing budget problems and voters' approval of $27.3 billion in bonds in the March primary have raised concerns that they won't be in the mood in November to plunge the state deeper into debt by approving the rail bonds.

A rival bill by Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont, that's backed by the Schwarzenegger administration would delay the bond election until November 2008. It's awaiting a vote by the Assembly.

Murray said he was working with the administration to try to reach agreement on when the election should be held. He said he wanted to make sure that environmental studies on the project didn't become outdated by delaying the vote too long.

A 33-0 vote sent the bill to the Assembly.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

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