PHOENIX - California local government officials and other stakeholders are becoming increasingly uneasy about the lack of activity in the state legislature's special session on transportation.
They say lawmakers need to get serious about passing transportation funding legislation.
The Fix Our Roads Coalition, comprised of transportation industry organizations, local elected officials, local government associations, labor leaders, and business leaders, is reenergizing its push for Sacramento to take some action on what it describes as California's enormous infrastructure spending deficit.
The special session Gov. Jerry Brown called a year ago has not been active since October, and committee chairs over the past few weeks have removed Brown's transportation funding proposals from budget negotiations in favor of tackling them in the special session, which is running in parallel with the regular legislative session.
In a May 27 statement, the Fix Our Roads group, which includes the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, said it is unclear when the special session will resume.
"California's transportation funding shortfall continues to grow each day the legislature delays action, and it has become too easy for the legislature to push transportation needs to the back of the line of issues to address," the group said.
The group also sent a letter to the leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate urging them to get serious about passing transportation funding in a bipartisan way.
"The elements of a bipartisan solution are already on the table, many of which have been introduced as bills into the special session," the coalition letter says. "Republicans have called for reforms and the use of existing revenues. Democrats have championed proposals that include new revenues. Any final deal must include all of these elements in order to cost-effectively and efficiently reinvest in our transportation infrastructure and make a robust enough investment to deliver visible performance based improvements on streets, roads and highways to California's taxpayers."
The renewed Fix Our Roads push began about when the California Transportation Commission announced last month it would slash $754 million of road and transit projects from the state's five-year infrastructure plan and delay another $755 million of planned work because of a decrease in gasoline tax revenues stemming from falling fuel prices.
The coalition's letter also expressed frustration at talk that the timing might not be right for the legislature to take up comprehensive transportation funding reform.
"Our organizations continue to hear chatter within the legislature that 2016 is not the year to take up this issue, the group wrote. "We heard similar sentiments in 2015. So we ask: will 2017 be any different?"
Last month the coalition also rolled out its own proposal for a bipartisan solution called the Roadmap to Consensus. The plan, made up of proposals already floated by lawmakers and by the governor, attempts to appease both sides of the aisle with a variety of reforms and revenue solutions. It includes reforms of laws regarding environmental impact reviews and state agencies that Republicans have pushed for, as well as new revenues Democrats have asked for.
Among the new revenues would be gas and diesel excise tax increases projected to generate some $3.1 billion, as well as a road access fee that would generate about $2 billion annually. By the fifth year the Roadmap to Consensus would be $6.9 billion of ongoing annual revenue, the coalition projects.
"Reinvigorate the special session," the group's letter concludes. "Empower the Conference Committee to negotiate a deal. Work with the Governor to get signed into law a reform and funding package that improves the safety and mobility of the traveling public, gets Californians back to work, improves our environment, and reinvests in our economy and our future."