Following a week of frantic advocacy for votes by Democratic leadership, the state Senate on Thursday afternoon prepared to vote on legislation to raise gas taxes and registration fees in order to repair California’s damaged roads.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders needed to secure at least a two-thirds majority to pass the $52 billion transportation package, SB 1, which proposes a gas tax increase of 12 cents per gallon, diesel tax increases and increased vehicle license fees. Under the proposed plan, drivers whose cars are worth under $5,000 would pay a $25 fee each year, those with cars valued between $5,000 and $25,000 would pay $50 and drivers of the state’s most expensive vehicles would pay up to $175 more. Electric vehicles would cost their drivers $100 per year beginning in 2020.
The bulk of the money will go to road repairs, although public transit will receive funding as well.
Tax-hike proposals need a “yes” vote from two-thirds of each house to pass, and just one Republican in the Senate seemed to support the bill, Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). Though the Senator did not say whether or not he would vote in favor of the proposed gas tax hike, Cannella had previously said he may support the bill if the state supported the extension of the Altamont Corridor Express to Ceres and Merced. SB 132, a separate bill which went into print Thursday, amends the Budget Act of 2016 to include $400,000 for the project, granting Cannella’s wish.
The new budget bill put in print Thursday funds the ACE extension through the year 2027, and also provides $100 million through 2023 for a parkway project at the UC Merced campus, helping to connect the school to Highway 99.
Cannella’s vote could prove crucial in the bill’s passing, as at least one of the 27 Senate Democrats is expected to vote against SB 1, depriving the proposal of the necessary two-thirds vote needed for approval.
While SB 132 most likely secured a vote from Cannella, Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) adamantly opposed the bill up until Thursday, although he was absent from the vote due to an excused absence.
“The coastal elites in Sacramento have once again proven that transportation does not make their list of priorities. After spending the first two months of this year passing countless useless resolutions attacking the President, they have now spent a mere few days slapping together a transportation plan relying only on $52 billion in new taxes,” said Berryhill. “We already have extremely high gas taxes, vehicle registration fees and weight fees originally intended for transportation fixes that instead ended up paying for special interests’ pet projects. Why should we believe this time will be any different?”
Assembly and Senate Republicans also released a statement regarding SB 1.
“Californians already pay some of the highest gas taxes in the nation. The transportation proposal announced by the Capitol Democrats is a costly and burdensome plan that forces ordinary Californians to bail out Sacramento for years of neglecting our roads,” they said. “This proposal would include the largest gas tax increase in state history, which will continue to rise over time, and a massive increase to the diesel tax and vehicle license fee.”
As of 7 p.m. Thursday night, the Senate had not yet cast their votes on SB 1. If passed, the bill will then be taken up by the Assembly Transportation and Assembly Appropriation committees, and, if approved in both committees, will then be voted on by the full assembly floor.
To stay up-to-date with the voting progress, visit www.leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.