At long last, Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) is getting his High-Speed Rail audit.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Audit voted unanimously to move ahead with an examination on the estimated $67 billion project.

That estimation for the first 119-mile segment, from Fresno to San Jose, increased earlier this month by $2.8 billion. That 35% jump now brings the estimated cost up to $10.6 billion.

“Does this get completed with the existing funds?” — Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno 

For years, Patterson has sounded the warning horn on the project. But his legislation to provide more oversight of the project has often been thwarted in committees.

Patterson’s latest attempt at accountability came in the form of an emergency audit request in November. That was denied by the audit committee chairman, Assemblyman Al Murasutchi (D-Torrance). He instead scheduled it for the next regular meeting, which happened today.

Bipartisan Effort

The audit request’s success increased substantially when Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) joined Patterson. Beall is also chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, as well as sitting on the audit committee.

The two legislators were joined by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), in their formal presentation today. Many members of the committee seemed receptive to such an audit.

“Does this get completed with the existing funds?” Patterson questioned, in making his case for the audit.

The Vote

The committee is made up of seven members each from the Assembly and Senate. The party breakdown is nine Democrats and five Republicans, including Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).

The first vote rendered a 9-0 tally. According to committee rules, four members of each chamber need to vote in favor for an audit request to pass. Only three senators were present at the time.

The vote was held open, and a short time later, the remaining senators (save Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) who is on leave for sexual harassment allegations) returned to the committee room to vote “yes.”

Audit Parameters

According to a news release from Patterson’s office:

The California State Auditor estimates the audit will take between six to nine months and will cost approximately $350,000. It will include, but not be limited to, the following elements:

  • Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives.
  • Review and assess the authority’s policies, procedures, and processes for managing contracts and containing costs for the project, including its processes for tracking, reviewing, and paying contractor invoices.
  • Evaluate the authority’s process for reviewing and approving design-build contract change
  • To the extent possible, review and evaluate the authority’s efforts to determine the economic impact the project has had on communities in those areas where construction is under way.
  • Determine the extent to which the authority contracts with small and disadvantaged
  • Review the authority’s sustainability policy and assess its compliance with the policy. Assess the authority’s efforts to evaluate the economic and environmental outcomes of its policy.
  • Determine whether there are opportunities for the authority to expedite the project and reduce costs through cooperation with other transportation entities, such as other transit or rail lines or through capturing additional value through construction of project facilities.
  • Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.

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