N.J. Needs Transportation Funds

New Jersey, the most densely populated state, needs $2.7 billion in new revenue by next year to maintain its roads, bridges and rail services, a regional development group said Monday.

Without that money, the state will be "unable to fill a single pothole," the report by the Regional Plan Association said. Raising the gasoline tax and mass-transit fares would help bolster the state's trust fund for road and bridge repairs, which will be using all its current revenue for debt service by next year, the group said.

The association's report recommended that the state limit the transportation fund from issuing long-term bonds for at least five years, stop spending capital transportation funds on day-to-day operations, increase public train and bus fares to keep pace with expenses, limit capital projects, and dedicate more transportation money to the fund.

* SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed a $117.5 billion California spending plan, avoiding a summer-long showdown with Democrats over the state budget. The budget for fiscal 2005-2006 avoids the borrowing that has plagued the state in recent years and does not raise taxes. It sets money aside to pay off some of the state's debt and increases funding to most programs, including $3 billion more for schools.

* SEATTLE -- Rock slides killed three climbers from Washington state Sunday on Sharkfin Tower in North Cascades National Park and trapped the rest of their group on the cold, rainy mountain until rescuers reached them Monday. Killed were John Augenstein of Seattle, Jo Backus of Tacoma and Mark Harrison of Bellevue.

* HOUSTON -- Four men kicked in the front door of a house and kidnapped six illegal immigrants at gunpoint, authorities said. One of the immigrants was later freed, and police said the motive for the abductions was not clear.

* QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. -- Arizona authorities searched for two young children missing from a home where their grandparents Saul Lopez Acosta, 63, and Trinidad Castro Acosta, 51, and uncle Jesus Manuel Acosta, 17, were found slain Sunday night. Police said Bryan Cervantes, 18 months, and his sister Jennifer, 3, may be with their father, Rodrigo Cervantes Zavala, 34.

* FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A grand jury indicted Kentucky's Republican chairman and two state officials on charges of conspiring to violate state personnel laws by allegedly hiring and firing employees based on their politics. Basil Turbyfill is in charge of filling political positions for Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), and Bob Wilson is part of Fletcher's personnel cabinet. GOP Chairman Darrell Brock was director of local government in Fletcher's office before he took the party job.

-- From News Services