Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Officials fight raids of road funds
By Lisa Mascaro - Staff Writer

Los Angeles County leaders have joined forces to lobby lawmakers to leave state transportation funds intact as they look for solutions to a projected budget deficit.

Elected officials and business and transportation leaders say the county will lose jobs and see traffic gridlock worsen if the state again appropriates money from state highway accounts.

"It's penny-wise and pound-foolish to raid these dedicated transportation dollars," Rusty Hammer, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

"We can't sit idly by as L.A. County grapples with the nation's worst traffic congestion."

Over the last three years, Sacramento has siphoned off a total $5.5 billion from transportation funds -- including a tax on gasoline that voters designated for transportation -- to handle its budget crisis.

A similar raid of transportation dollars could mean a $300 million hit this year for Los Angeles County -- money that could be used to leverage billions for highway and transit projects, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The money could bring up to 70,000 jobs to the region, officials said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already approved borrowing up to $1 billion to finance projects because of the state's past actions.

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Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761 lisa.mascaro@dailynews.com

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