California Senate approves projects linked to gas tax hike
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Senate on Monday approved more than $900 million worth of road and train projects that were promised to lawmakers in order to secure their support for a hike in gas taxes and vehicle fees.
The promised funding for projects in the Central Valley and Riverside County was integral to the tax hike’s razor-thin approval earlier this month. Four lawmakers agreed to vote for the tax increase only after Gov. Jerry Brown and top legislative leaders promised to push through legislation guaranteeing funding for their favored projects.
“This is part of the give and take in a democratic society,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
Sens. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Adam Gray, D-Merced, won support for a $400 million extension of a commuter rail line to link their Central Valley districts to San Jose. They’ll also get a $100 million parkway linking University of California, Merced to a major highway.
Cannella was the only Republican in the Legislature to support the tax hike.
Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes of Corona, both Democrats, secured $427 million for projects in Riverside County.
The legislation, SB132, which contained the funding for their projects, cleared the Senate in a 27-13 vote, sending it to the Assembly.
The Senate also approved SB496, a bill written by Cannella that shields architects, engineers and land surveyors from liability in certain circumstances.
Cannella is vice president of NorthStar Engineering Group, which does engineering, design and survey work for public and private projects including a high school, police station and medical facility.
The hike in gas taxes and vehicle fees is projected to raise more than $5 billion a year for road and bridge repairs, public transit and other transportation projects. Brown has not said when he will sign the bill.
Meanwhile, the only Democrat in the Assembly who voted against the deal was stripped of his position as the chairman of the Business and Professions Committee.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield was moved to the Assembly Rules Committee, a less prestigious posting that lacks the power and fundraising opportunities that come with being a committee chairman.
The decision by Speaker Anthony Rendon came on the first day the Legislature convened since approving the transportation funding plan. Rendon, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, wouldn’t say whether he removed Salas from the committee because of his vote.
“It’s my prerogative to make changes from time to time, and that’s what I did,” Rendon said.
Because of the timing, Salas said there seems to be a “high correlation” between him being removed as chairman and his vote.
Despite pressure from other Democrats, Salas said he decided to honor the promise he made to his constituents not to raise taxes.
“What weighted on my mind really was keeping my commitment to the families in the valley that I represent,” Salas said. “I’ll have to deal with the repercussions. But I’m more worried about the families in my district that have to figure out how to make this work for their budget.”