Gov. Jerry Brown reiterated his commitment to California's high-speed rail project today, but he also proposed additional oversight, seeking to fold the troubled High-Speed Rail Authority into a new state agency.
The annual spending plan proposed by the Democratic governor this afternoon includes continued funding for the Rail Authority's operations, but it doesn't yet include bond proceeds to start construction in the Central Valley.
"The Authority's funding plan is under review by the Department of Finance," according to a budget summary. "After the review, the Administration will propose a plan for the initial train segment."
As part of a measure to consolidate state agencies and departments, Brown proposed creating a Transportation Agency, including the Rail Authority, the Highway Patrol and the departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, among others.
Tom Umberg, chairman of the Rail Authority board, said in a prepared statement this afternoon, "We embrace the reorganization proposal as it provides additional support and the necessary resources to support this project."
The $98.5 billion rail project faces an increasingly skeptical Legislature and electorate as it prepares to start construction this year. Earlier this week, a peer review group said it could not recommend bond funding until the project's long-term financing plan is more certain.
Brown told reporters today that some of the objections raised by the group "were not that well founded."
"I'm of the view that this is a time for big ideas, not shrinking back and looking for a hole to climb into," he said. "I think we've got to move forward."