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President Donald J. Trump meets with Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China Liu He in the Oval Office at the White House on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that it plans to cancel $929 million awarded to California’s high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion that it has already spent.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement follows through on President Donald Trump’s threats to claw back $3.5 billion that the federal government gave to California to build a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed a fight to keep the money and said the move was in response to California again suing the administration, this time over Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by,” Newsom said in a statement. “This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”
It’s the latest spat between the White House and California. Trump earlier in the day linked the emergency declaration lawsuit to the train, noting that California filed the challenge on behalf of 16 states.
“California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge!” the president tweeted.
The train project has faced repeated cost overruns and delays since California voters approved it in 2008. The Trump administration argued Tuesday that the state hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete certain construction work by a 2022 deadline.
Newsom declared in his first State of the State address last week that he planned to scale back the project and focus immediately on building 171 miles (275 kilometers) of track in central California. His office said he still plans to complete the full line, although he said the current plan would cost too much and take too long.
He’s pledged to continue environmental work on the full line, which is required to keep the federal money.
But the U.S. Department of Transportation said Newsom’s comments last week reinforced the administration’s concerns about the project.
“Governor Newsom presented a new proposal that represents a significant retreat from the State’s initial vision and commitment and frustrates the purpose for which Federal funding was awarded,” read the letter outlining the case for cancelling the money.