Capitol Alert

Gas tax deals illegal? ‘Preposterous,’ says Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday dismissed as “preposterous” suggestions that he broke the law by providing district-specific projects to lawmakers to win their support for his $52 billion road repair package with tax and fee increases.

“When somebody says, ‘Here is $10,000, I want your vote,’ you got bribery. It’s illegal,” Brown told reporters in Sacramento. “When someone says, ‘You know, I think this bill would be better if you included these projects or these ideas or these rules,’ we listen, because that’s democracy and that’s openness and that is a compromise spirit that makes democracies work.”

Brown’s defense of the late maneuvering earlier this month to secure passage of the legislation came a day after a Republican lawmaker sent a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking for an investigation into “apparent quid pro quo-inspired vote trading” for Senate Bill 1. Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said she believed that the actions may have violated several state and federal laws.

“I am for working toward a solution and understand the need for compromise, but there is a big difference between compromise and bribery,” Melendez said.

But Brown, a Democrat who served as attorney general before returning to the Governor’s Office in 2011, and last year appointed Becerra to the post, insisted there was nothing illegal about the dealmaking.

“When we fashion a bill in the democratic system we don’t do it by an autocratic dictator behind a closed door. We talk to people,” he said.

“We get many ideas to fashion a consensus product.”

Asked when he would sign the bill, Brown responded, “That’s a good question.”

“Stay tuned,” his spokesman, Evan Westrup, added.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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