While a proposed gas tax repeal has yet to officially qualify for the November ballot, Gov. Jerry Brown and his allies are already on a defensive campaign to save the unpopular fee hike — and vulnerable lawmakers who voted for it.
Brown and legislative Democrats put a lot of political capital on the line last year when they passed a major increase on transportation fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, promising to fix California's crumbling roads and highways. Now Republicans are trying to take advantage of the situation by turning it into one of the major campaign issues of the 2018 election.
One senator who voted for the plan is facing a recall drive that could cost Democrats their supermajority in the upper house. And GOP candidates for governor and Congress are funding an initiative to repeal the taxes in a bid to save their own seats, banking on the measure driving up conservative turnout this fall.
Public polls have consistently shown that California voters do not like the gas tax increase, which took effect last November, and a majority is prepared to approve the repeal. It would be a massive setback for much-needed infrastructure repairs and a rebuke to Brown at the end of his historic four terms as governor.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
So he's hit the road in recent weeks to try to change Californians' minds.
Brown will join Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of Torrance and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, among others, for a ceremony at 10:45 a.m. in Torrance to launch the construction of a terminal for LA Metro's light rail extension into the South Bay, a project paid for in part by the new gas tax.
The guest of honor is Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Manhattan Beach, one of the final holdouts the night that the funding plan passed. Muratsuchi narrowly lost his seat in 2014, before winning it back in 2016.
This is Brown's third event related to the gas tax in the past two weeks. He spoke in Los Angeles the day after the California Transportation Commission approved $2.7 billion for new construction and was scheduled to join Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, last week for a press conference about an overpass project in Oxnard. (He ultimately missed it because of a flight delay.)
Where Brown is not available, prominently branded signs are filling in.
Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning run-down on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.
I CARE FOR YOU: Legislative Democrats are pushing this year for a budget deal to expand the state's low-income health care program to cover undocumented adults, but an estimated price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars could make it a hard sell for Brown. Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bells Gardens, and Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno — who are carrying bills to remove immigration status from the Medi-Cal eligibility requirements for adults 65 and over or 25 and younger — will rally with supporters at 9:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol.
VOTER GUIDE: It's time to fill out that ballot. Our voter guide can help you pick your candidates.
WE NEED A RESOLUTION: As policymakers search for solutions to the problem of school violence, the UC Center Sacramento will host a discussion at noon at the center on K Street about the spectrum of challenges from bullying to mass shootings and actions to address them. Debbie Look, a senior consultant for the Assembly Committee on Education, will moderate a panel with UC Santa Barbara Professor Michael Furlong, UC Davis Professor Amy Barnhorst and Tom Herman of the California Department of Education.
MORE THAN A WOMAN: Polls indicate that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't really need the help, but he'll get some anyway from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who will join the Democratic frontrunner for governor at a rally in Burbank at 1:30 p.m.