The Riggs Report: Brown’s road-repair pitch
April 6, 2017
Plan depends on no Democratic defectors
Gov. Jerry Brown’s powers of persuasion are being put to a crucial test this week: He’s facing the daunting task of convincing every single Democratic lawmaker at the Capitol to get on board with his comprehensive road repair plan, and more important, the tax increases it will require.
There’s been a lot said and written about the supermajority that Democrats hold in both the Senate and the Assembly. But in practical terms, it sounds more impressive than it is.
Like any caucus group, Democrats are not a monolithic bunch; they have differing viewpoints and philosophies on issues ranging from taxes and regulations to the environment and labor.
Brown’s transportation plan involves new taxes—a 12-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline excise tax and a 20-cent-per-gallon increase in the diesel excise tax. That means the plan depends on a two-thirds vote in both houses to move forward.
Republican lawmakers won’t go near this, leading Brown this week to deride that opposition and suggest that opponents believe “the tooth fairy” will pay for California’s infrastructure makeover. The GOP has its own plan, which would redirect existing revenues into road projects.
That leaves Brown, along with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, with the challenge of convincing every Democrat to put their name behind the politically charged issue of a tax increase.
That’s not easy. There are a lot of potholes in the governor’s path.
Moderate Democrats in the Senate—like Richard Roth and Steve Glazer, who once served as a political adviser to Brown—remained undecided as of midweek.
The hill will be even steeper in the Assembly, where a moderate pro-business caucus of Democrats could stand in the way. Lawmakers who are in competitive districts will think twice about a vote that will give their opponents election-year ammunition.
The plan that Brown and Democratic leaders are pitching would generate $52 billion over a 10-year period. Two-thirds of that amount would be devoted to upgrading and repairing roads and bridges, the rest to public transit and other assorted projects.
Besides the fuel taxes, the plan would include an increase in the vehicle fee we all pay annually to the DMV, based on a car’s assessed value.
Brown is staking a lot of his considerable political capital on this fight, staging campaign rallies in the East Bay, Riverside and at the state Capitol to convince wavering lawmakers.
The arm-twisting is underway, meaning that floor votes this week in the Senate and Assembly will be closely watched cliffhangers with a direct impact on our wallets and our roadways.