With a self-imposed deadline on a $52 billion transportation bill looming, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday began striking deals giving nearly $1 billion in road project funding to the districts of wavering lawmakers.
“I’m energized and doing everything I can to make sure California climbs out of this big hole,” Brown told reporters outside the Capitol.
Brown and legislative leaders had given themselves until Thursday to pass the largest road deal in California in more than a quarter century, widely cast as the first true test of Democrats’ ability to use a two-thirds majority in both houses won in the November election.
But by 4 p.m., it remained uncertain whether Democrats would be able to rally votes from two-thirds of the Legislature to pass the bill despite their supermajority. They were having particular difficulty with members representing districts that can shift parties depending on the election because the measure contains a gas tax increase.
Lawmakers began crafting a separate measure outlining spending for individual legislative districts, Senate Bill 132, and a spokesman for Senate President Kevin de León said he supported it.
The measure outlined $500 million in funding to the district of Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto. It allocates $400 million for an extension of a Bay Area commuter rail line, the Altamont Corridor Express, to Ceres and Merced and a $100 million parkway project between the University of California, Merced, campus and Highway 99.
Canella’s office declined to comment on the trailer bill or his vote.
The bill also earmarks $472 million for the Riverside County Transportation Efficiency Corridor in Democratic Sen. Richard Roth’s Riverside County district. The corridor overlaps with the Assembly District represented by Sabrina Cervantes, a Democrat who also lives in Riverside.
All three members represent swing districts.
Cervantes’ office would not comment on whether the appropriation was part of a deal with the assemblywoman. Roth said he had yet to take a position on the bill.
Other Democrats were wavering, too.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, said he had not made up his mind yet on the transportation plan. He said he had been involved in conversations with legislative leadership and the governor, but would not say if they had offered any projects in his district to secure his vote.
“I’d love to have a proposal that Democrats and Republicans are both on,” he said. “I’m just waiting to see what comes over.”
Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, said he has yet to take a position on the deal as well. Senate leaders are working to secure the vote of Cannella, a Republican, because Glazer’s support is doubtful.