This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators went to Concord Thursday to tout their transportation package, which they unveiled Wednesday at the state Capitol.
- Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León amended his "sanctuary state" bill Thursday morning to allow law enforcement to notify federal immigration officials about the release of violent felons.
- Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones hosted a community forum on immigration Tuesday, where the guest speaker was the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Acknowledging that the state's transportation system has been neglected, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Wednesday announced a proposal to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees to generate more than $5 billion annually for repairing California’s crumbling system of streets, highways and bridges, as well as to increase mass transit.
It remains uncertain whether Brown will be able to muster the two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature needed to approve the new revenue sources, which include a 12-cent-per-gallon increase in the existing 18-cent base excise tax on gasoline.
The package also includes a new, annual vehicle fee that would average about $48 based on the value of the car. The package was announced at a news conference on the Capitol steps attended by Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
California has not approved an increase in the base excise tax on gas for 23 years, according to Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. As a result, the state faces a $130-billion backlog of repairs to state highways and bridges and local streets.
“There is sizable money here to make things better,” Kelly said. “People are going to get improved neighborhood streets. They are going to get improved highways and bridges, more faith that they are traveling on safe structures. And we are going to invest to improve the congestion into our trade corridors and congestion on their commute.”
Assembly and Senate Republicans released a joint statement opposing the plan.
“Californians already pay some of the highest gas taxes in the nation,” the statement said. “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.”
Brown has set a deadline of April 6, the day before the Legislature leaves on its spring break, to have the new package voted on by lawmakers.
Because Republicans have generally opposed the tax increases, the package may need the vote of every Democrat to get the two-thirds majority for passage. Three Democratic senators had been holding off their support before the new plan was released.