| SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 29
SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 29 California would
increase gasoline taxes and other transportation-related fees
for the first time in decades to fund an ambitious $52 billion
plan to repair the state's sagging infrastructure under a deal
The deal between fiscally moderate Democratic Governor Jerry
Brown and leaders of the majority Democrat legislature would
increase the excise tax on gasoline by 12 cents per gallon from
the current $0.28, and on diesel fuel by 20 cents per gallon,
among other fees, over 10 years to pay for repairs to roads and
bridges as well as for anti-congestion projects.
"Let's be clear - our roads suck," said Assembly Speaker
Anthony Rendon, who represents blue-collar suburbs south of Los
Angeles at a news conference announcing the deal. "Our bridges
are crumbling and traffic takes time away from our families.
Delays cost businesses money."
California's transportation systems have languished
unrepaired and unexpanded for decades, as budget constraints and
politics have stymied plans by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Brown, a fiscal moderate credited with bringing the state
back from a $27 billion budget gap, has refused to sign on to
plans that involve borrowing money, and Republicans and some
moderate Democrats have resisted raising gasoline taxes.
But the same Democratic wave that led California to go
two-for-one in favor of former presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton last November gave the party a two-thirds majority in
both houses of the legislature, enough to pass new taxes without
The deal won support of construction companies and labor
unions, and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday put up a unified
front on what had been a divisive issue over raising taxes.
Under it, owners of electric vehicles would have to pay a
$100 fee to help repair roads even though they don't use
gasoline and would not pay the gas tax. The fees and taxes would
raise about $5.2 billion per year.
Republicans condemned the plan, saying transportation taxes
and fees were already among the highest in the country.
"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," Republican leaders said in a joint statement.
Their opposition means that if even a few moderate Democrats
defect, the package could fail. Brown urged support.
"This is like fixing the roof on your house," the governor
said. "If you don't fix the house, your furniture will be
ruined. The rug will be destroyed. The wood will rot."
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by James Dalgleish)