California Highway

Democrats and Republicans alike want to fix California’s dilapidated streets, highways and bridges, but there’s not enough support for the higher taxes that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to pay for it. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Megerian
October 18, 2015

A little more than a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown was touting an outbreak of bipartisanship in the Capitol. Lawmakers from both parties backed crucial deals on water and state finances — “a high point in our work together,” the governor said.

That spirit has been absent as Brown has struggled to find a deal on funding for much-needed road repairs across the state. Democrats and Republicans alike want to fix California’s dilapidated streets, highways and bridges, but there’s not enough support for the higher taxes the governor wants to pay for it.

“There’s a lot of political rust that has to be chipped away,” said Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), co-chair of a committee working on the issue.

Common ground appeared elusive Friday when lawmakers held a hearing in hopes of getting negotiations back on track, part of a special session that has stretched into the Legislature’s fall recess.

Brian Kelly, a top administration transportation official, presented the same plan at the hearing that Brown proposed last month: $3.6 billion in annual funding, mostly from a new fee on drivers and higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel.

Republicans seemed no more interested in supporting the idea than they were before.

“It needs to be a bipartisan approach,” Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) said. “What you presented is not necessarily a bipartisan approach.”

Taxes and fees can’t be raised by the Legislature without Republican support because such measures require a two-thirds vote. But the GOP’s unified opposition to more taxes has been a point of pride for a party that rarely has enough muscle to make its mark in Sacramento.

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