Today’s Headlines: Road repairs in the slow lane

Ccars in a traffic jam on the freeway
Traffic backs up on Interstate 5 near downtown San Diego in 2019. The state has spent about $16 billion on road and bridge repairs and other transportation improvements since the governor signed a bill in 2017 that raised the gas tax.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

In California, the gas tax is going up again, but promised repairs are lagging.


Road Repairs in the Slow Lane

Four years ago, the California Legislature increased the gas tax to provide more money to repair crumbling roads and bridges. Since then, the state has spent billions and made some progress, but officials now say the funding is sufficient only to complete less than half of the work needed.

For the record:

4:55 p.m. May 24, 2021An item in this newsletter previously referred to Xavier Becerra as a U.S. senator. He is Health and Human Services secretary.


And come July 1, the gas tax will increase again — from its current 50.5 cents per gallon to 51.1 cents per gallon. California’s total state taxes and other charges on gasoline are the highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, based in Washington.

The program to fix roads has been hampered by California’s high cost of repairs compared with other states and by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in less driving and therefore hundreds of millions fewer gas-tax dollars than expected. In addition, with people driving more electric and fuel-efficient cars, state officials are studying ways to make up for the loss of gas tax revenue, possibly with fees tied to miles driven.

The tax has been a political hot potato since it was passed in 2017, resulting in the recall of a Democratic state senator who voted for the legislation and an unsuccessful attempt by Republicans in 2018 to ask voters to repeal the higher charges. Now, some lawmakers say repairs have been too slow and the effort has lagged behind those in other states when it comes to maintaining and improving transportation systems.

An Active California A.G.

Rob Bonta has been California’s attorney general for only a month, but he’s already announced the creation of a Racial Justice Bureau to combat hate crimes and biased policing, financial help to local law enforcement agencies struggling with a backlog of untested rape evidence kits and expanded the Bureau of Environmental Justice to better target polluters.

These and other actions mark a flurry of activity that has pivoted the state Department of Justice away from four years of fighting the Trump administration on national issues to a renewed focus on problems inside California.

Bonta’s barrage of proposals comes after more cautious and slow starts on state issues by his predecessors Xavier Becerra, who is now Health and Human Services secretary, and Kamala Harris, the vice president.

While Bonta’s actions have drawn praise, he is also facing criticism from the California District Attorneys Assn. and two candidates challenging him in next year’s election. Those two candidates have accused Bonta of failing to address an increase in violence and property crime.

More Politics

President Biden appointed a special envoy to North Korea after a White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, declaring that both leaders are “deeply concerned” about “the continuing threat” of the North’s nuclear missile programs.

— First Lady Jill Biden told young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children that she feels “inspired” by them because they didn’t just receive a college education, they “fought for it.”

— Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a Republican trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney next year, revealed that he impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18, describing the relationship as “like the Romeo and Juliet story.” They later married and divorced, and the woman killed herself when she was 20, Bouchard said.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

The Baby Bust

California is expected to see almost 50,000 fewer births this year, the low point of a national COVID-19 baby bust.

More than a third of respondents to a recent survey said they planned to either put off having children or have fewer because of the pandemic. Roughly half of the 5 million women who were thrown out of work last spring had young children, and an additional million mothers were pushed out by the pressure of remote school in the fall and winter. Some delayed or ended pregnancies amid news that COVID-19 could be more severe and more fatal in pregnant people.

Economists, demographers and reproductive health experts say the COVID-19 crisis capped a decade in which basic costs far outpaced wages, at the same time that the Affordable Care Act in effect made birth control free for most Americans. And one of the more popular options under Obamacare is the IUD.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— How life in California will change with the June 15 reopening.

New coronavirus cases across the United States have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months.


— They took to the streets after the murder of George Floyd. Nearly a year later, they’re fighting to keep change going.

— Urban Alchemy’s skid row L.A. Clean Team finds needles, rats, the occasional corpse — and deep gratitude.

— Just when they’re needed most, Iran’s doctors and other healthcare workers are leaving in droves.

— What are the costs of the lost pandemic year? They hit columnist Nita Lelyveld hard when she finally visited her mother-in-law.

— L.A.’s new 6th Street Bridge is rising. See the rebirth of the historic span in these photos.


Thanks to Mark Twain, Calaveras County in Northern California is known for its frog jumping. In 1981, Denny Matasci and his 1976 world-record-holding frog, E. Davey Croakett, competed in the Angels’ Camp contest, making a great leap for frogkind. Sadly, that year, it was not great enough.

A man lies on the ground as a frog jumps
May 24, 1981. Denny Matasci cheers on his champion E. Davey Croakett.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

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— Nearly 150 people were arrested in Huntington Beach after a man’s TikTok video inviting people to his birthday party went viral and the city was overrun with unruly revelers, police said.

— Family members have identified a 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed in an apparent road rage attack on the 55 Freeway in Orange as his mother drove him to school, as authorities continue to search for those responsible.

— A suspected antisemitic attack outside a Westside sushi restaurant last week has left many in L.A.’s Jewish community on edge. Authorities have identified a man arrested in connection with the attack.

Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, an Armenian church on the outskirts of Boyle Heights, has seen a post-pandemic revival.

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— Members of George Floyd’s family, and others who lost loved ones in police encounters, joined activists and citizens in Minneapolis for a march that was one of several events planned nationwide to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s death this week.

— Torrents of lava poured into villages after dark in eastern Congo with little warning, leaving at least 15 people dead amid the chaos and destroying more than 500 homes, officials and survivors said

— A cable car taking visitors to a mountaintop view of some of northern Italy’s most picturesque lakes plummeted to the ground and then tumbled down a slope, killing 14 people.

— A prominent opponent of Belarus’ authoritarian president was arrested after the airliner in which he was traveling was diverted to the country after a bomb threat, in what the opposition is calling a hijacking operation by the government.


— Eighteen-year-old singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo is shaping up to be pop’s breakout star of 2021. Our critic says her debut album, “Sour,” might be the most self-aware pop record in recent memory.

Sandra Oh considers “Killing Eve” a “transitional” role: “I am now only interested in pieces that are specifically dealing with Asian experiences.”

— Soon, audiences can be in the room where it happens: “Hamilton” will be back early at the Pantages.

— How the Netflix comedy “Master of None” got its groundbreaking portrait of in-vitro fertilization right.


— California accounted for an outsized portion of the nation’s new jobs last month, although its path to economic recovery from the pandemic remains steep.

— The 710 Freeway is a key link in the U.S. economy, but pollution and evictions doom its expansion.


— The Lakers got outplayed by the Phoenix Suns in a 99-90 loss to open their first-round NBA playoff series, while the Clippers lost 113-103 to the Mavericks in Game 1 of their series.

— The Dodgers completed a road sweep of the San Francisco Giants behind the arm and bat of Julio Urías, while Shohei Ohtani provided a booming moment of heroics in the Angels’ win over the A’s.

— At 50, Phil Mickelson made history at the PGA Championship as the oldest winner in major championship history.

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— One year after George Floyd’s murder, has the “reckoning” begun? The Times’ editorial board considers this in the first in a series of editorials.

— The best way to inform the public about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot would be a bipartisan panel. Maybe that’s why Donald Trump, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell are fighting so hard against one, columnist Doyle McManus writes.


— The Associated Press fired Emily Wilder, a 22-year-old Stanford graduate who was a pro-Palestinian activist in college, after what she described as a “witch hunt” by conservatives. (BuzzFeed News)

Paul Mooney, who wrote for some of the greatest Black comedians, died at 79. A look at his legacy. (The Undefeated)


A local favorite for years, the L.A. punk band the Linda Lindas has hit it big after a video of the group playing its song “Racist Sexist Boy” at the Cypress Park branch of the L.A. Public Library went viral. The group, which is made up of two SoCal sisters, a cousin and a pal ranging in age from 10 to 16, is about to sign a record deal with Epitaph — even as its members are in the thick of studying for finals.

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