Capitol Alert

California special session to end without new transportation funding

Cars move slowly along the Capital City Freeway on Jan. 5, 2016.
Cars move slowly along the Capital City Freeway on Jan. 5, 2016.

California’s special legislative session on transportation funding will come to a close without a deal to finance billions of dollars in repairs to the state’s crumbling roads and highways.

After nearly a year-and-a-half without any clear progress, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders jointly announced Tuesday night, through a letter addressed to “Dear valued stakeholder,” that no vote would take place before the end of the special session on Nov. 30.

“While there will not be a lame-duck session of the Legislature to approve a transportation funding deal in 2016, our work on this critical issue continues,” stated the letter from Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

“The Administration, Assembly and Senate are all committed to tackling this issue early in the new year to address our critical infrastructure and transportation needs – and we’ll need your continued support,” it continued. “Let’s get it done!”

Brown called the special session in June 2015 to address a growing backlog of needed maintenance on California’s widely-traveled roads.

It stalled for months as lawmakers struggled to balance the priorities of the majority Democrats, who wanted to raise the gas tax to pay for upgrades, and minority Republicans, at least a handful of whose votes were needed to reach the two-thirds threshold for a tax increase. Despite incorporating ideas from both parties, a proposal last year from Brown that mixed new taxes, a road user fee and cap-and-trade dollars went nowhere.

Lawmakers were facing a looming deadline this week because of Proposition 54, the initiative passed by voters on Nov. 8 that requires that any bill be in print for 72 hours before final votes in both houses.

All sides – Democrats, Republicans, Brown, and the coalition of business, local government and labor groups that’s been urgently pushing for the deal – would have need to reach an agreement by Sunday at the latest so the Legislature could reconvene in Sacramento and vote on it before the special sessions ends next Wednesday.

But with the Capitol shutting down for the long Thanksgiving weekend, time ran out on any last-minute negotiations.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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