A rider attached to the Texas Senate’s version of the 2018-2019 state budget would prohibit the Texas Department of Transportation from subsidizing high-speed rail.
Property owners in a corridor from Houston to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex have expressed concerns that a proposed private high-speed rail project might use eminent domain authority to force them into selling productive land. Meanwhile, taxpayers across the state are worried about a California-esque budgetary disaster striking if the state were to subsidize that or any high-speed rail line.
A California high-speed rail line has grown from an estimated $40 billion at inception to now more than $60 billion and climbing. The project is also falling far behind the original schedule. The California line was envisioned as a government-run public-works project from the outset and was approved by voters a decade ago.
Texas Central, the company proposing the high-speed line, have said they have no plans to use eminent domain or take state funds for the project, but citizens along the proposed route dispute those claims.
Noting that the company has already received some federal funding and will not rule out the use of eminent domain, a large number of citizens have contacted their lawmakers and asked them to stop the proposed train in its tracks. Several counties along the proposed route have come out against the proposal.
In budget hearings this week, State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) proposed the rider “to prohibit the use of appropriations from state funds for the subsidizing or assisting in the planning, construction, maintenance, security, or operation of high-speed passenger rail.”
Texas Central has come out in opposition to Schwertner’s budget rider.
In addressing his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee, Schwertner brought up California’s experience as a reason to protect Texas taxpayers. Schwertner assured the committee that the rider would not affect the state’s interactions with local government transit systems.
State Sen. Royce West, a Dallas-area Democrat, was the lone dissenter on the Senate Finance Committee.
Under the chairmanship of State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), the Senate Finance Committee has kept a tight lid spending, keeping the state budget under the revenue estimates provided by the state comptroller. Meanwhile, the Texas House has proposed a budget that exceeds available revenues, in violation of the state constitution’s balanced budget requirement.