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LA Mayor Garcetti calls for immediate state action on road repair funding

FILE PHOTO: A bumpy road in California illustrates the need to fund $130 billion in backlogged repairs. State lawmakers have been urged to approve a long-term funding plan to fix the roads statewide.
FILE PHOTO: A bumpy road in California illustrates the need to fund $130 billion in backlogged repairs. State lawmakers have been urged to approve a long-term funding plan to fix the roads statewide.
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Local officials usually don't like to point out how potholed their city streets are, but that's just what Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did Monday.

At a press conference, he called on state legislators to take action on a long-delayed funding plan for road repairs.

Garcetti joined a growing chorus of local officials pushing for a long-term solution to the $130 billion backlog of road repairs, a backlog that existed even before strong winter storms  further battered the state's crumbling infrastructure.

The state gas tax, which funds road repairs, hasn't kept pace with the cost of construction. With more fuel efficient vehicles and lower gas prices, tax revenues have fallen in recent years. That's compounded a transportation budget hole left by years of shifting gas tax funds, intended to fix roads, during California's long period of deficits.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been pushing lawmakers to address the issue for nearly two years. He formed a special session of the Legislature to tackle the problem in 2015. But all proposals have been trapped in political gridlock.

Mayor Garcetti urged state leaders to get past their disagreements.

"The time for passing this on to tomorrow has passed," he said. "Let's put this problem in the rearview mirror, California, and take action."

Legislators and the governor have agreed to hammer out a deal by an April 6 deadline, the last day before lawmakers break for recess.

Two twin bills in the state Senate and Assembly have been making their way through committees. They would both raise the gas tax and tie it to inflation, and charge an extra $100 flat fee per car to raise $6 billion annually for the roads.

Republicans have opposed any effort to increase taxes and fees, favoring a diversion of funds from the controversial high speed rail project and other general fund programs. But Democrats now hold a supermajority in both houses, so they don't need Republican votes to increase taxes.

The Democrats do have divisions within their ranks. A sizable contingent of moderate, pro-business Democrats have proven a stumbling block to the more progressive wing's efforts in the past on issues like climate change legislation.

However, the California Chamber of Commerce and a broad coalition of other business groups are supporting efforts to increase revenues for road repairs, and that could make a difference this year.