California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelef van Ark vowed this week to keep updating state legislators about the progress of the high-speed rail, even if the reports aren't tied to funding for the controversial mega-project.
Van Ark said he "clearly understood the need to improve the public's understanding of our state's high-speed train project and how it will be built."
He said in a statement released this week that the veto would not prevent the authority from presenting to the legislators the information they seek, even though the deadline for the reports may have to be extended because of California's delay in passing the 2010-2011 budget.
"Despite the language vetoed in the budget, the Authority is committed to transparency and accountability, and will submit a project update to the Legislature and to the public at large, which voted to build this fast and efficient mode of travel for our state," van Ark said.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and other legislators inserted a series of accountability measures and reporting requirements into the budget to ensure the rail authority improves its business plan and enhances its outreach effort.
The budget, which the Legislature finally approved last week, required the authority to present a better business plan to the Legislature by Feb. 1 or $55.3 million in state funding would be withheld -- representing about a quarter of the authority's budget.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday vetoed the fund-withholding provision, saying he was worried it would slow down the voter-approved project and jeopardize the authority's ability to meet deadlines for federal grants.
The authority estimates that the project will cost $42.6 billion. Voters approved $9.95 billion in bonds for the project in November 2008.
Despite the budget-related delays, van Ark said the agency will produce the requested reports.
"While the record-setting delay in passing a state budget has affected our timeline, I agree with the Governor that such reporting is appropriate and necessary.
"Based on my experience in the private sector, regular and accurate reporting is routine, and I am committed to ensuring that the same principles apply for this project," van Ark.