PHOENIX – Time has run out on California lawmakers' efforts to pass new transportation funding legislation in 2016, a sharp turnaround from the optimism that local government groups had expressed only a few days ago.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced in a Tuesday evening letter that there would not be time for new transportation funding legislation to be introduced and passed before the special session on transportation called more than a year ago expires Nov. 30. Leaders of that session and stakeholders had hoped that the lame duck session would offer an opportunity to finalize details of a plan that was taking shape, but a failure to make progress before the long Thanksgiving holiday has killed that chance.
New legislation would have needed to be in print by this weekend in order for it to have a chance to beat the deadline, and lawmakers had recently believed they were close to having a bill ready. Special session chairmen Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, were working on securing votes for a measure that local government lobbyists said would probably resemble a $7.4 billion annual funding package the two men had proposed in August. The proposal featured some significant tax increases, a tough pill for some lawmakers, mainly Republicans, to swallow.
Alarm sounded late last week when it became clear that a deal was in trouble. The Fix Our Roads Coalition, a diverse alliance of stakeholders pushing for new road and bridge funding, released a statement on Friday expressing doubt that lawmakers could beat the legislative buzzer, but urging them to redouble their efforts when a chance to address the problem does arise.
"This issue is not going away and the situation is only going to get worse," the coalition said. "With California's roads crumbling, its bridges failing, and its transit and rail systems broken, the coalition urges the legislature to redouble its efforts and not give up until the goals of the special session have been met."
There is nothing stopping lawmakers from pursuing a funding solution when the next regular legislative session convenes next month, which Democratic leaders vowed they would do, but lobbyists have said there will likely be at least some delay as a new legislature with new members gets up to speed.