Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown working to sway skeptical Democrats on transportation tax increase

With only a day left until the scheduled vote for a massive transportation funding deal, Gov. Jerry Brown held court with Assembly Democrats on Wednesday afternoon looking to secure critical support that had yet to materialize.

After another public rally in Capitol Park to push the deal, Brown headed upstairs to the Assembly lounge. The private meeting lasted more than an hour-and-a-half, with laughter often audible from the hallway outside, but appeared to leave Brown still short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass the bill. Many lawmakers, as they exited, declined to discuss their position on the plan, which would raise fuel taxes and create a new vehicle registration fee to pay for road repairs, public transit and other programs.

Nancy McFadden, a top aide to Brown, said the governor had a “very good discussion” with lawmakers, but declined to say what he might be able to offer wavering members to get them on board. Because of a new law requiring bills be in print for 72 hours before a vote, the Legislature cannot make any changes to the transportation measure and still take it up on Thursday.

“The bill is the bill,” McFadden said.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who helped negotiate the deal, denied that the governor was making any promises through the budget or future bills to secure legislators’ support: “That’s quid pro quo. We don’t do that.”

But some members said they are willing to vote for the bill if they could guarantee that the increased taxes on their constituents would result in investments in their districts. Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, said he is looking for an extension of commuter rail into the Central Valley.

“It’s going to be an imperfect product, as anything of this magnitude will be,” he said, but he could support the deal if he knows where the money is “getting spent and that it’s protected.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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