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Gas Tax Votes Hard To Come By In California Legislature

One day before California lawmakers are scheduled to decide whether to raise fuel taxes and vehicle fees to pay for road repairs, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders are still looking for votes.

It takes 27 senators and 54 assembly members to hit the two-thirds supermajorities required to raise taxes and fees. And it’s clear backers of the transportation funding deal haven’t reached that number yet.

“It’s probably the highest tax increase in the history of California that the Legislature will act on,“ says the only Republican who’s signaled he’s open to the bill, Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).

“So yeah, it’s a tough vote.”

As of Tuesday, Cannella was a flat “No.” He’s fighting for a commuter rail project to connect Silicon Valley and his Central Valley district. There’s money that could go to that project in the bill, but Cannella wants it named specifically so his region doesn’t lose out to the Bay Area and Southern California.

“I could not have been more clear. My language is out there, I have op-eds out there, I have interviews out there. Nobody can say they did not know where I was,“ Cannella told Capital Public Radio Tuesday. “And so it’s unfortunate about this deadline, but in order for me to take this vote – which, I’m willing to take this vote – there needs to be things there that are important to my district as well.”

Cannella was referring to the arbitrary deadline set by the governor and Democratic leaders. They're hoping to push the transportation deal through the Legislature on Thursday, the day lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for spring break, even though they only announced the deal a week earlier.

Many Democrats have their own demands. And outside interests from environmental groups to the agriculture industry are fighting to kill the bill too.

Backers can’t afford to lose any support. Even if Cannella votes yes, they’ll still need Aye votes from all but one Democrat in the Senate and the Assembly.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio