Ernst Gives Biden ‘Squeal Award’ for Sending Billions in Federal Tax Dollars to California Rail Projects

Ernst Gives Biden ‘Squeal Award’ for Sending Billions in Federal Tax Dollars to California Rail Projects
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 28, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Mark Tapscott

President Joe Biden is the latest recipient of Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) Squeal Award, for what she says are the billions of tax dollars being wasted by “the Biden Boondoggle Express” on costly California commuter rail projects.

“Folks, your tax dollars would go a whole lot further if they were spent more wisely. The president has a kind of reverse Midas touch,” Ernst said in an April 25 statement provided to The Epoch Times. “But instead of turning to gold, the cost of everything he touches ... increases faster than the price of gold. And each of these Golden State gravy trains are guaranteed to receive golden tickets aboard Biden’s Boondoggle Express.”
The Iowa Republican’s long-running monthly Squeal Award has made Ernst the Senate’s most outspoken opponent of waste, fraud, and abuse in federal spending since the 2015 retirement of Sen. Tom “Dr. No“ Coburn (R-Okla.).

Ernst pointed to two major California commuter rail projects—the California High-Speed Rail and the San Francisco Central Subway Extension—that Biden gave multibillion-dollar budget increases, even as both projects have long records of over-budget expenditures and construction delays.

“Sold to taxpayers at a price of $33 billion (pdf) and a completion date of 2020 (pdf), this train still hasn’t left the station,“ she said. ”Construction is costing about $1.8 million a day and it won’t be completed for another decade (pdf). The total price has skyrocketed to $128 billion—that’s nearly $100 billion more than the original price tag.”

The California High-Speed Rail will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco—if it’s ever completed.

“The Obama/Biden administration committed $3.5 billion (pdf) for this gravy train as a ’shovel ready' project more than a decade ago. President Trump stopped payment, saving nearly $1 billion. Now, the Biden administration has restored that money (pdf) and even added another [nearly] $50 million more, praising the project (pdf) as an example of President Biden’s ‘build back better’ approach,” Ernst said in her statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in Washington on Dec. 8, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in Washington on Dec. 8, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Central Subway Extension would expand the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) underground system to nearby San Jose and Silicon Valley and has long enjoyed the enthusiastic support of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“Biden is ‘building that back,’ too, at the outrageous price of more than $1 billion per mile! Completion of the 6.5-mile subway extension was promised by 2026 (pdf) at a price of nearly $4.7 billion,“ Ernst said. ”It’s now been delayed for a decade (pdf) while the cost has doubled to more than $9.3 billion. While the subway keeps digging itself deeper in a hole, President Biden is pledging as much as $4.6 billion of taxpayer support, including $500 million, in his bloated budget.”

She also warned of yet another California rail project.

“These are just two Biden Boondoggles, but there are many more in the making. In fact, you don’t have to travel very far from where these other two gravy trains are being planned to run into yet another. At $5.15 billion per mile, the 1.3-mile extension of San Francisco’s rail service, the Caltrain, is on track to be one of the costliest transit projects in the world, and the planners are expecting Biden to bankroll half of the costs (pdf),” Ernst said.

Biden’s Bureaucratic Boondoggles

“The price has ballooned from $3.9 billion in 2016 to $6.7 billion today. While the cost is increasing, Caltrain is experiencing one of the most dramatic declines in ridership in the nation [according to The Mercury News]. Nevertheless, the Biden administration has given the project the green light (pdf) to receive taxpayer dollars,” Ernst said.

The Caltrain runs above ground, while the BART extension would be an underground system.

A White House spokesman didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

To put an end to such federal spending, Ernst said she’s introducing two measures. The first of the two, the “Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act,” would expand existing public reporting requirements for transportation projects costing $1 billion or more to all federally funded transportation programs.

The second proposal is the “Put the Brakes on Boondoggles Act,” which Ernst claims “would bring each of these runaway trains to a squealing halt.” A draft copy of the proposal provided to The Epoch Times includes two provisions.

The first provision would require the secretary of transportation to stop federal funding for a program when “the overall cost projection to complete the project exceeds the original cost projection by at least $1 billion.”

The second provision would require federal funding to end when “the operational and administrative costs of the service provided by the project are projected to exceed the revenues generated from ridership annually over the next decade.”

Mark Tapscott is an award-winning senior Congressional correspondent for The Epoch Times. He covers Congress, national politics, and policy. Mr. Tapscott previously worked for Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Montgomery Journal, and Daily Caller News Foundation.
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