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Newsom Changes Mind On High-Speed Rail, Wants Money Redirected

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California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom give remarks after being sworn in as the 49th Lt. Governor of California at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom give remarks after being sworn in as the 49th Lt. Governor of California at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, once a strong supporter of California’s high-speed rail project, told a conservative radio show host Friday that he no longer backs the bullet train and would like to see the money diverted to other projects.

“I would take the dollars and redirect it to other, more pressing infrastructure needs, and I am not the only Democrat that feels this way. And I’ve got to tell you, I am one of the few that just said it publicly,” Newsom said, according to a recording of the program provided by the station, KTTH in Seattle. “Most are now saying it privately.”

Newsom’s comments make him the most prominent Democrat in California to publicly split with Gov. Jerry Brown on the project, which is one of the governor’s top priorities.

Newsom was asked about the $68 billion plan during an appearance on the Ben Shapiro Show. The host said many Californians have turned against the bullet train after approving a 2008 ballot measure that allowed the sale of nearly $10 billion in bonds for it.

Newsom said he was the first California mayor to support the bond measure and even campaigned for it with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Now, he said, “I think I’m where the public was and is.”

“We don’t have the federal dollars that we were hoping for—only about $3 billion has come forward. The private sector hasn’t stepped up,” he said. “That said, the governor is hell bent on doing the first phase of this in that area you just referenced, the central part of the state.”

Brown has continued to back the bullet train even as questions grow about how the state will pay for it. Brown’s office referred questions about Newsom’s comments to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“High-speed rail is forging ahead because voters backed a statewide rail modernization program that is creating jobs and will provide clean transportation for generations to come,” Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority’s board, said in a written statement.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge last year threw out the state’s funding plan, ordering it to write a new one, and prevented the sale of high-speed rail bonds.

Late Friday, the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed to hear an expedited appeal from Brown’s administration, which said the decisions could cause serious delays and set a bad precedent for other public works projects in the state.

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