Jeff Jardine

Cannella knew his vote would be taxing in ways beyond raising gas prices


Moments after Republican Anthony Cannella cast the state Senate’s deciding vote Thursday to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 12 cents per gallon, critics raged at him on his on his Facebook page.

“I think I’m going to stay off social media today,” Cannella later quipped in a post.

Blogger Jon Fleishman of retweeted a San Jose Mercury News story and commented, “High-Priced Prostitute: News says Sen @AnthonyCannella (R) is trading his vote for $54 B in higher taxes for $400 M in pork in his district.”

Another claimed Gov. Jerry Brown bought him off. And those were some of the nicer ones among the dissenters. He’s also received phone calls from angry residents all over the state.

After all, how dare a Republican cross a party line, and especially by voting for a new tax? Likewise, how dare three Democrats vote for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch? The political rhetoric gets uglier by the day.

Indeed, Cannella and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, joined forces with Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton. They held out to get $400 million to bring the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train to Ceres and Merced, and $100 million for the UC Merced Gateway plan. Otherwise, they would not have voted in their respective houses for the 10-year tax expected to generate about $54 million for transportation needs including road and bridge repairs.

Getting something in return beneficial for your constituents is called politics to the winners, pork to the losers. Politicians routinely solicit campaign contributions from corporations, wealthy individuals and political action committees. Those contributions aren’t philanthropic. They come with strings attached, such as the $47,000 Rep. Jeff Denham took from Comcast before voting along party lines last month to relinquish your Internet browsing privacy rights.

Not that Cannella’s vote should have come as a surprise. He and Gray said all along they would vote for the tax if the valley wasn’t ignored as usual. They said that to The Bee’s Editorial Board on Monday and reiterated it in a joint opinion piece published on Wednesday.

They had clout, knew it and used it to score major benefits for the valley including hundreds if not thousands of local, good-paying jobs, a better transportation link to the Bay Area and freeing up money for other transportation projects in Stanislaus and Merced counties. Best of all, they got it in writing specifically to the funding of the ACE train and UC Merced projects.

Cannella voted his conscience, which is pretty rare in politics at any level these days. Party repercussions? Bring it on. He terms out in 2018, and knows voting for the tax could end any future political aspirations.

“I weighed this,” he said. “If this can change the lives of people in my district, its worth whatever the consequences. I’m proud of my vote. It was hard, but I’ve been working on this for 2 1/2 years, negotiating in good faith. Had I voted no (after getting the demands), that would not have been in good faith.”

And for that, he is getting shunned by some fellow Republicans who oppose any new taxes under any circumstances, and would like to get rid of most of the old ones.

Gray knows he’ll be targeted by Republicans when he comes up for re-election, but would have been anyway.

It’s a politically angry time, with anger from both sides on display at the numerous town hall meetings staged by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Roseville, as well as across the nation. Denham, too, can expect his share of dissent as well as support at his meeting April 17 in Denair.

There have been anti- and pro-President Trump events locally, and right-wing media maven Ann Coulter’s speech to the county’s GOP club April 28 is expected to draw some protestors outside the Modesto Centre Plaza.

In Patterson, the Patterson Progressive Alliance is taking a different tack – a nonconfrontational one – by hosting an event Sunday, April 9, to educate folks about the single-payer health insurance plan proposed in California in February. It’s politics in a different form and the kind that slips beneath the partisan politics radar.

Crossing party lines to vote for a gas tax does not. Cannella knew that from the time he began negotiating the deal.

“In general, I’m proud of my vote,” he said. “It’s hard. It made me sick to my stomach because I had to vote for it.”

And for that vote, Ceres and Merced get $400 million for ACE train service, UC Merced gets $100 million for its gateway project and Stanislaus County will get to share in $200 million a year in transportation matching funds paid for by the new 12-cent tax that will bring California’s total to 42 cents per gallon.

Cannella gets professional satisfaction, social media vitriol and shunned by members of his own party with 20 months in office to go.

“And I’m fine with that,” he said.

Single-Payer Insurance Information

What: Patterson Progressive Alliance educational event; will include a free screening of the documentary “Fix It: Health Care at the Tipping Point.”

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9

Where: Patterson Professional Development Center, 530 Keystone Blvd., Patterson