Capitol Alert

Gov. Brown signs gas tax increases

Jerry Brown says gas tax vote was above board

Gov. Jerry Brown on April 19, 2017 spoke with reporters about the gas tax increase to fix roads.
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Gov. Jerry Brown on April 19, 2017 spoke with reporters about the gas tax increase to fix roads.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed the controversial $52 billion tax and fee increase to pay for the largest road funding plan in California in more than a quarter century.

Senate Bill 1 raises the funds through a 12-cent gas tax increase that begins in November, a new fee based on vehicle value and other means over a decade to pay for road maintenance and repairs, public transit and other projects.

“Safe and smooth roads make California a better place to live and strengthen our economy,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation will put thousands of people to work.”

The bill reached the governor’s desk after he and fellow Democrats negotiated side deals with lawmakers to hammer the bill through the Legislature with a two-thirds majority vote during a floor session that stretched late into the night on April 6. The sweeteners included nearly $1 billion in funding for special projects for districts in the Modesto and Riverside areas to convince wavering Democrats and one Republican to sign onto the plan.

A Republican radio host quickly pounced on the vote as a launching point to launch a recall of Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. Carl DeMaio, who is leading the recall effort against Newman, said he’s targeting the lawmaker over the gas tax and to eliminate Democrats’ powerful majority in the Senate.

With 27 Democrats in the Senate and 55 in the Assembly, the party can at least in theory pass major tax bills without a single Republican vote. That’s not how it worked with the transportation bill. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, refused to support the deal, prompting leaders to strike a deal with Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, to cross party lines to vote for the tax increase.

The governor said the negotiations were an example of democracy and called suggestions that the side deals may be illegal “preposterous.”

Get the details of the deal here.

Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, on April 6, 2017 spoke in support of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, which would guarantee that the gas tax and vehicle fee increase he and other lawmakers approved must be used for transportation projects.

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the "arrangements" he made with California lawmakers to secure passage of a bill that raises the gas tax for road repairs on April 6, 2017.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna