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California Gov. Jerry Brown advocates for high-speed rail

California Governor Jerry Brown prepares to sign copies of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (AB 278 and SB 900) on July 11, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. He also recently signed a $8 million transportation bill.

Jeff Horwich: In California, Governor Jerry Brown has been on the campaign trail. He's not up for re-election -- he's campaigning for massive infrastructure projects. Some of these, Brown's been pushing for decades. But why is he on the offensive now, when his state faces multi-billion-dollar deficits?

From KALW in San Francisco, Ben Trefny reports.


Ben Trefny: When Gov. Brown signed an $8 billion transportation bill in San Francisco last week, he acknowledged he's been at this a long time.

Jerry Brown: You know, I signed my first high-speed rail bill 30 years ago, it's taken that long to get things going.

High-speed rail isn't the only thing he's pushing. He also wants a pair of tunnels to transfer water from northern to southern California. Cost? Anywhere from $14 billion to $24 billion, depending on your favorite estimate, figures similar to the deficit California faces year after year.

If the projects do get built, they would be completed after the 74-year-old Brown is out of office. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters says that's part of the point: the lifelong politician once nicknamed Governor Moonbeam wants more of a concrete legacy.

Dan Walters: He wants people to look back on him and say, "That Jerry, he did some really great stuff." Rather than, "Hey, Jerry, he was kind of crazy. You know?"

There is one constant over Jerry Brown's long political career. He's always shooting for the moon.

In San Francisco, I'm Ben Trefny for Marketplace.

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