When Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned for his sales and income tax increase five years ago, he appealed to statewide voters by arguing it would cost them just “one penny more” for their cappuccinos.
In the Bay Area trying to build support for his $5.2 billion road-funding package, Brown acknowledged Thursday that convincing the Legislature to raise fees and taxes on motorists was more akin to feeding them green vegetables than sweet confections.
“This is a heavy lift,” Brown said, surrounded by Democratic legislative leaders and hard-hat wearing construction and transportation workers. “This is not eating cotton candy. This is real spinach. This is broccoli.”
“If we don’t do it, the roads will crumble,” he added. “If we don’t do it this year, I doubt it will be done for a long, long time. So, take it, or deteriorate. That’s your choice.”
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Brown and the leaders announced the deal Wednesday in Sacramento, setting off a political struggle to pass it in the Legislature. The plan would raise gas taxes and user fees on motorists, costing California drivers about $10 more per month, depending on the value of their cars and the miles they travel.
Supporters, including Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said they believe they can work out agreements with unconvinced lawmakers.
Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat who represents the district where Thursday’s event took place, was not present, though several in the audience invoked his name, and carried a sign, urging his backing. A spokesman said Glazer, a former campaign strategist for Brown, continues to talk with the administration.
Brown, de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon could also face the challenge of cajoling Republicans if some Democrats don’t come around.
Still, unlike in the 2012 tax campaign, which Brown led before successfully running for a historic fourth term, the Democratic governor is using the approaching end of his career as a virtue in the debate, suggesting he has no political incentive to mislead lawmakers, or voters.
“I am telling you the truth, cause why would I lie? I am not running … I don’t think I’m running for office,” Brown said, suggesting that there are few offices left he hasn’t held, and joking that he would be 82 if he ran for president again in 2020.
“But, you know,” he said to laughter, “don’t rule it out.”