|7:14 PM EST||
David Valadao, R-CA 21st
Mr. VALADAO. I thank the gentleman rice farmer from northern California for the opportunity to speak here today.
Where do you start with something like this? I grew up a dairy farmer in Kings County and continue to be a dairy farmer in Kings County to this day. I spent my first 2 years in elected office in the California State Legislature on a budget subcommittee and watched as this project moved along; and right before election when this was passed back in '08 and up until my election in 2010, the project didn't seem that bad. It seemed like something that was just voted on and put on the shelf and they
would continue to build on it. Then, at the last minute, some money showed up and it basically put this project in high gear, and the project wasn't ready for it.
As the Congressman from the northern part of the valley mentioned earlier, there is no real plan. When you show up at the last minute and say, ``Here. Here is some money. Start building right away,'' as if it is shovel ready, it set this project up for a really, really tough time.
What we are facing now today, we see a train system being built, a high-speed rail, and like was mentioned earlier, older technology. Forty years ago, rail with wheels was the technology. Now maglev is the new technology. So to see a project that is starting today with technology that is already 40 years old that probably won't be running for another 30 years, I think we are setting ourselves up for failure.
When you look at what else has been going on with this project, as far as what the opportunities are, when you look at my district specifically, California District 21, you have got communities like Hanford, Corcoran, Wasco, who all rely on a system that we have today, Amtrak. Amtrak doesn't really pay its bills, but it gets people from A to B, and it serves its purpose. You have got a system there where people who live in those communities are able to get to the doctor in Fresno or get to the
doctor in Bakersfield or get to work, but a small, commuter train that gets them where they need to be for relatively low cost.
You look at high-speed rail, and as the map that was up on the screen earlier showed, what we have there is a track that will basically pass from Hanford, if Hanford ever gets built, but for sure Fresno to Bakersfield, and it leaves all of the people in California 21 basically out to dry. That is sad. I mean, when you see a project that was supposed to help those less fortunate, or those people who need it the most, you have a project now that is actually going to hurt them and put potentially
at risk what they have today, Amtrak, their mode of transportation.
Because this project lacks so much money, that is why it puts us in that position. We have a system in place that is built on someone else's train tracks. It is on Burlington Northern's train tracks in my area, and I am sure it is on other tracks in other parts of the State, but if the project that they have today starts to move forward and they run out of money like we expect them to do, part of the plan is to move Amtrak over there. So what happens to those stations in my district? That is
just one of the issues I see.
In California 21, like I mentioned earlier, and a good portion of the valley, we face a water shortage, a drought. Some of that is natural, but a lot of that is regulatory. We have also got a severe lack of infrastructure to deliver water. We have Tempered Flats and we have Pikes Reservoir, we have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built, and that is infrastructure that would benefit not just California but the whole State in general.
When you look at a project like high-speed rail, if that project was to go forward and be built, you would have a high-speed rail that most people couldn't afford to ride.
If you build water infrastructure, you now have water to grow products, water to feed families, water for our communities, and once you have that, you start to grow crops and produce product. You start to improve an economy and produce a product that you actually can sell and bring dollars back into your community. That, in my opinion, makes a lot more sense.
Education. California has struggled with funding for education for years. We have seen plenty of programs that were cut out or cut back or just flat out gotten rid of. If you have a project like high-speed rail spending money when they are not prepared for it, when we should be investing in our future, education, making sure our kids have the best opportunities, the best foundation to bring, to improve our economy, to be good, productive members of our society and to make a real difference--I
think education should be our first priority.
You look at everything we could be spending money on. Right now in California, we have been letting prisoners out of prisons because we don't have enough money to build facilities for them and to keep some of the community correctional facilities open. There is a lot going on, and we have to be spending money on a project like this when we should be focusing on something that helps keep our communities safe.
Those are all things that we should be paying attention to that we are not because of this project. They are in a hurry to build this project right now because they say it creates jobs, but, like was pointed out earlier, those numbers are all bogus. They were pushed up. They were not honest numbers. We are starting to see this project that will put our children and grandchildren into debt for a long time for a small amount of jobs that we really can't account for and we can't ensure will be our
own community jobs.
So this is something that has had me concerned my whole time in the legislature, and I have talked about it for a long time. It is something that I am going to continue to fight. It needs to be talked about and pushed out there.
The more people who get involved--you take groups like my Kings County group of residents who have sued the State and sued the Federal Government over this project. When they first got involved, they looked at this project and said this is going to affect our families and homes, let's fight it. Once they started getting into the details and saw where the funding was coming from, or the lack of funding, the amount of deceit that goes into this project just to get it rammed down our throats, they
decided to keep fighting no matter what, even though the alignment was moved off their property across town to another part of town. The high-speed rail people thought all of these people will back off now because it doesn't affect them personally, but once they knew what was really in this project, they thought there is no way we can let this fight go. So the group actually grew.
Now that the new constituents were affected by the new alignment, the new guys joined with the old guys and the group grew. Now they have moved the alignment back. The first group is continuing to fight, and the second group is in it as well. It is just amazing how the more you get to know about this project and how it is being pushed and how it is being run, the more you want to fight it, and the more you want to shut this thing down.
Just to close, California high-speed rail comes at a tremendous cost to taxpayers while delivering no benefit to my constituents. This project will destroy homes and businesses throughout [Page: H219]
California's 21st Congressional District and divert precious tax dollars away from water infrastructure, public safety, and education.
I will continue to uphold my promise to my constituents and do whatever I have in my power to stop this project as fast as possible.