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California officials say jobs riding on transportation bill

September 2, 2011 |  4:24 pm

Photo: Sen. Barbara Boxer. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times State and local leaders this week used the approaching Labor Day holiday as a platform to call for federal investment in transportation projects, warning that failure to do so would further damage the nation’s infrastructure and cost millions of jobs.

In a letter to congressional leaders, at news conferences and in “A Common-Sense Jobs Agenda” issued Friday, elected officials urged federal leaders to extend the nation’s surface transportation law and take other steps to boost the economy and create jobs.

“The clock is ticking,” said a letter issued Wednesday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to congressional leaders. “If such an extension is not signed by the President before September 30, the entire program will be suspended.”

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, both Democrats, released a joint statement Thursday saying nearly 2 million jobs would be lost if Congress failed to pass the transportation bill.

“The $52 billion in Federal funding provided through these programs, when matched by State and local investments, supports over 1.8 million jobs nationwide through all sectors of the economy,” the statement read.

However, recent clashes in Washington, D.C., over raising the national debt ceiling have cast doubt on passage of a fully funded transportation bill. Many Republicans in Congress oppose expanding government programs, saying the nation has already accumulated too much debt.

In a conference call, Boxer said GOP lawmakers were running the risk of a public backlash. 

“If this becomes a battle, then I think the people are going to have to judge my Republican friends with being completely out of touch with reality,” Boxer said. "We’re looking at a number of jobs lost … that frankly this country cannot sustain.” 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and one of the authors of the group's jobs agenda, said in a call with reporters Friday that he hoped partisan politics wouldn’t interfere with job creation. “It’s time to break the gridlock,” Villaraigosa said. “The American people are tired of all the political posturing.”


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Photo: Sen. Barbara Boxer. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times