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Political Landscape: Frommer faces roadblocks on transportation issues

January 30, 2011

Frommer faces roadblocks on transportation issues

Glendale native and former state Assemblyman Dario Frommer was voted in as chairman of the California Transportation Commission on Jan. 19, just in time to inherit a fistful of financial problems.

Frommer, a Democrat who represented the 43rd Assembly District from 2000 to 2006, said the sluggish economy, federal and state belt-tightening and unforeseen consequences of two November ballot measures are hurting the bottom line when it comes to roads and transit.


"The biggest issue we're facing in transportation, as in other parts of government, is funding," Frommer said. "We've seen tax revenue from sales of gasoline and fuels drop dramatically."

One problem is that 2006 transportation funding measures touted by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and passed by voters are falling short. For example, Proposition 1B created nearly $20 billion in transportation bonds, but the state has not put all the bonds up for sale because of miserable market conditions and the state's shaky financial health.

As if that weren't enough, Frommer said, this year voters created an "unanticipated problem" with Propositions 22 and 26.

Proposition 26 requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature for any new revenue source. The measure also requires a two-thirds majority affirmation of recently passed taxes. One of those is a complex shift in the state's fuel excise tax that lawmakers passed in November.

Frommer spent part of the week in Sacramento telling lawmakers that hundreds of millions of transportation dollars are at risk without a new vote.

The issue is complicated further by Proposition 22, designed to limit state raids on local funds, because that measure also limits the state's use of fuel excise taxes.

"We have some headaches," Frommer said. "I don't know whether it's congratulations or condolences to be chair this year."

While the California Transportation Commission has wide-ranging authority on transportation spending, it will not decide whether Burbank will be home to a high-speed rail station. That will be determined, possibly this year, by the California High-Speed Rail Commission.

Likewise, the controversial proposal for a Long Beach (710) Freeway tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena is in the hands of Los Angeles County authorities. Frommer is not holding his breath for a quick resolution there.

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