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Can California lawmakers tackle road repairs with new supermajority?

It could be a bumpy road ahead for Congress — not least because, well, they'll have to find ways to fund fixes for old, bumpy roads.
FILE: California state lawmakers have been gridlocked on the issue of paying for a $136-billion backlog of road repairs. Will the new Democratic supermajority make a difference?

The California Legislature will again take up the problem of funding road repairs this week, an issue that has been championed by Gov. Jerry Brown but that lawmakers have failed to act on.

In recent years, gas tax revenues have not kept pace with inflation and construction costs, leaving California with a $136 billion backlog in needed repairs to highways and local streets.

In 2015, the governor called a special session of the Legislature to tackle the problem. But lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement on any funding measures for the last year and a half.

Brown's most recent budget proposal include a transportation funding package of $4 billion a year that includes a mix of tax and fee increases, cap and trade revenues and cuts at California Department of Transportation.

His won't be the only proposal on the table. 

This week, Democratic state Sen. Jim Beall will renew his effort to break through the legislative logjam with SB 1, which will be heard in the Senate transportation committee Tuesday.

The bill would raise the gas tax by 12 cents and charge drivers an extra $100 a year, bringing in about $6 billion annually to fund repairs.

If that sounds familiar it’s because Beall and fellow Democrats have introduced similar bills in recent years. Those got no traction with Republican lawmakers, who favor diverting funds from the controversial High Speed Rail project and other general fund projects.

However, this time around Democrats hold a supermajority in both houses, meaning they could theoretically pass a tax increase without Republican support.

A report from TRI, the national transportation research group, estimated potholed roads in the Los Angeles metropolitan area are costing local drivers nearly $3,000 a year.

Recent rains have exacerbated the problem, leaving the city of Los Angeles struggling to respond to a record number of pothole reports.