It was a late night at the state Capitol Thursday for lawmakers looking to get a $52.4 billion transportation plan out of both houses of the Legislature, with no support from the California Republican Party -- except for one senator.
Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres, whose district covers Merced and San Benito counties, was the only member of the GOP to cast a 'yes' vote for the 12 cent increase in the state's gas tax, the first increase in 23 years, plus a 20 cent increase in diesel.
"This state cannot continue to just put asphalt band aids on potholes when what we really need is major road and rail surgery to keep Californians and their economy moving," Sen. Cannella said in a statement after the 27-11 passing vote went down in his chamber. "In addition, this will be transformative for commerce and commuter travel throughout the Central Valley."
Cannella pointed to the high unemployment numbers in his district -- more than double that of the state and nearby counties -- as a factor in him mustering the political will to support a tax increase, which supporters say will bring in hundreds of thousands of infrastructure-related jobs.
Highlighting how difficult it is for Republicans to vote in favor of higher taxes, Cannella tweeted in the late afternoon he would be staying away from social media.
Standing with legislators in front of his Capitol office after the SB 1's passage at 11 p.m., Gov. Jerry Brown said he was proud of Cannella for supporting the sweeping transportation plan, "because he's a civil engineer -- he knows what it means to build roads and that's good."
Gov. Brown says the plan will cost the average California driver about $10 a month. Half of the revenue raised will go toward fixing state highways and transportation projects, while the other half will go toward repairs to local projects. The state Assembly approved the bill on 54-26, with no Republican support.
A constitutional amendment that ensures the money won't be spent on anything other than transportation projects was also approved by the Legislature last night. Both measures now head to the governor's desk for his signature before going into law.