Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aid and Comfort to the Enemy?


Special Interests Line Up Against San Joaquin Valley Communities
Early Saturday morning, the House passed a 2011 federal spending bill which contained provisions to protect the water supplies of San Joaquin Valley communities. The language has two parts. One component will ban funding to implement the flawed San Joaquin River Settlement and the other will keep the Delta pumps operating for the remainder of the year.

You can read the water language in the bill by clicking here.

You can read my Congressional Record Statement explaining the water language by clicking here.

The fate of these important provisions in the Senate is uncertain. Even prior to House passage, Senator Dianne Feinstein (see here) and the Obama Administration were in full attack mode. Feinstein, who is trying to get the Delta declared a National Heritage Area, has for years fought efforts to provide relief to our communities (see her on the Senate Floor). To compound our problems, the Obama Administration is preparing to roll out a new government bureaucracy to oversee the left’s Delta agenda (click here).

Several groups claiming to represent the interests of farmers are working to block House Republican efforts in the Senate. They include the Friant Water Authority, which has become an apologist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its extreme environmental politics. Another is a large corporate farming interest allied with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Paramount Farming Company. Despite efforts to cloak their opposition in well crafted talking points, environmental politics and not the interests of San Joaquin Valley residents are responsible for their views.

You can read the Friant Water Authority and Paramount Farming Company letters here.

As House Republicans work to end the government-imposed drought, liberals and their allies in the environmental movement are stepping up their attacks. It is unacceptable for groups claiming to represent farmers and rural San Joaquin Valley communities to provide cover to politicians who are responsible for our region’s water shortages. You can be certain that I will continue to call them as I see them – exposing the truth behind who is helping and who is hurting efforts to restore our region’s access to reliable water supplies.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valley Republicans Seek Options for High Speed Rail Money


Today, I joined my colleagues in the House, Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) and Jeff Denham (CA-19), in the introduction of legislation that will allow the State of California to redirect federal high speed rail funding to finance long overdue and urgently needed road repairs along the State Route 99 corridor.

If state and local leaders choose to support this legislation, they will have sufficient funding to establish a six-lane freeway from Sacramento to Bakersfield while vastly improving the heavily congested corridor’s safety and enhancing the region’s air quality.

The economic and environmental benefits of SR 99 improvements are strongly contrasted by the uncertainty of California’s now infamous bullet train, which has been described by the national press as “the train to nowhere.” Providing the state the option to redirect high speed rail funding to SR 99 will give state and local leaders the opportunity to step-back from what is likely to become a bottomless pit of spending.

At this time, state leaders admit that California is poised to spend $58 billion – using ultra conservative state estimates – to build the phantom bullet train. However, the actual price tag is likely to exceed the combined federal highway spending in California for the 50 years from 1957-2007 (if it is ever completed). In addition, a host of independent watchdog groups, including the State Auditor, have raised serious questions about the project and question whether it is even viable. [State Auditor's Report, Legislative Analyst's Report, Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley]

Meanwhile, nearly everyone agrees that the State Route 99 corridor – one of California’s most seriously congested and under-funded highways – is in need of major infrastructure improvements. For this reason, I and other Valley Republicans believe California should have the ability to transfer a portion or the entirety of the federal high-speed rail funds to improve Highway 99. [see bill text here]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Water Wars Update


This week, the House will vote on a federal spending bill – the 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR). This CR, which funds the operation of the federal government for the current fiscal year, is necessary because last year Democratic leaders failed to pass a budget.

While much of the public attention is appropriately focused on efforts to reduce spending, there are also important provisions in the CR that relate to our communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

Specifically, thanks to the support of Republican leaders, I was able to get language included in the CR that will restore and protect our water supplies (see bill text).

The language included in the base bill of the 2011 Continuing Resolution will prevent any federal funds from being used to implement the biological decisions responsible for reduced Delta pumping – effectively guaranteeing normal pump operations for 2011.

Furthermore, it will ban federal funding for the restoration of the San Joaquin River during the 2011 fiscal year, the first step in Republican efforts to replace the flawed billion dollar salmon run. It also demonstrates Congressional intent to suspend restoration flows for 2011 thereby keeping the water on the east side of the valley.

In place of the existing restoration plan, which spends $21 million per salmon, I am working with House leaders to establish both an environmentally and economically responsible San Joaquin River restoration. This will include a year-round, live river on the San Joaquin but will also ensure a robust east side agriculture economy.

However, despite the inclusion of this important language in the CR, there are a number of obstacles ahead. There is no question that liberal leaders will offer amendments to strip the San Joaquin valley water language from the CR. That is why it is essential for California Democrats to unite in our defense. Should we succeed, the pressure will be on our Senators. Will they choose two inch bait fish and the junk science now rejected by the federal court or will they choose valley workers and their families?