- Associated Press - Monday, April 24, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - After a fast-tracked process, California lawmakers on Monday voted to send the governor a bill to authorize more than $900 million in transportation projects that helped secure key votes for a gas tax hike.

The Assembly heard the bill, SB132, in committee and on the floor in the same day, part of an expedited process to approve the legislation. The bill funds train and highway improvements in the Central Valley and Riverside County.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it into law along with SB1, the transportation funding bill.

Promises to fund projects in their districts won support from several lawmakers for the transportation funding bill the Legislature passed earlier this month. SB1 is expected to generate $5.2 billion a year through increased gas taxes and vehicle fees to fix crumbling roads.

Assembly Republicans criticized the projects linked to the tax increase as “backroom deals.” Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican from Huntington Beach, called it a “corrupt bargain.”

“Today, we’re presented with the bill of sale, otherwise known as SB132, which contains a billion dollars in payoff in special projects for those legislators’ votes,” Allen said.

Democrats have pushed back, saying the projects will bring needed transportation money to parts of the state that have historically not seen their fair share of such spending.

State Sen. Richard Roth and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, both Democrats from Riverside County, secured more than $400 million for bridge and highway improvements in their districts.

Sen. Anthony Cannella, a Republican from Ceres, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Democrat from Merced, scored $500 million in train and highway projects in their Central Valley districts.

“Here we have a bill that’s making some specific, strategic investments in one of the most underserved regions in the state,” Gray said, adding that the measure clearly outlines where the money will go. “It’s specific, it’s transparent.”

Cannella was the only Republican in the state Legislature to vote for the bill. On Monday, the Assembly also voted to send the governor SB496, a bill Cannella authored that would shield architects, engineers and land surveyors from liability in certain circumstances.

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