BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) – After opposing the now-passed multimillion dollar transportation bill, California Assemblyman Rudy Salas has achieved what few Democrats representing rural areas can claim: support from his Republican constituents.
“I never vote for Democrats but if there was one, Rudy would get my vote. Took a lot of guts to do the right thing for Californians, who are way overtaxed already,” Steven Perryman of Bakersfield wrote on Facebook.
Others on social media praised Salas for his honesty and willingness to stand up for his constituents against party pressure.
“As a Republican I want to say THANK YOU to Mr. Salas for supporting your constituents' needs over Sacramento's greeds,” Mark Thompson wrote on Facebook.
A native of Bakersfield, Salas represents the 32nd Assembly District encompassing Kings County and parts of Kern County. He was also sole Democrat to oppose Senate Bill 1 – the Road Recovery and Accountability Act – which hikes the gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon and increases annual vehicle registration fees $25 to $175 depending on the vehicle’s value.
According to estimates from the League of California Cities, Bakersfield stands to get $9,566,171 over the first two years of the tax hike. Farther north, Fresno could see $13,132,713, while Los Angeles would get a whopping $101,712,748 – the most of any city in the state.
Overall, the bill is projected to bring in $827 million over the next two years for local street and road repairs.
The bill now sits on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it since he traversed the state trying to sell it to lawmakers’ constituents.
Though Democrats enjoy a supermajority in the Legislature, the bill was unpopular and Salas’ decision to vote against it almost killed it. It passed by a slim margin on April 6, the Legislature’s last vote before going on spring break.
When lawmakers returned on Monday, Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon announced Salas had been stripped of his seat as chairman of the Business and Professions Committee and placed on the Rules Committee.
The reassignment came as quite a blow to Salas. While Business and Professions is one of the most powerful committees in the Assembly – handling bills that affect businesses and thus attracting attention from power players and lobbyists – the Rules Committee oversees only the business of the Assembly itself.
In an op-ed piece, Salas defended his decision to buck party lines.
“The families I represent drive too far to jobs that pay too little. Imposing an additional gas and car tax on them would disproportionately affect some of the poorest and hardest working families in the state. This weighed heavily on my mind on April 6 as the California Legislature debated Senate Bill 1,” Salas wrote.
“But, despite being a huge part of California's economy, we in the valley sometimes feel left behind.”
The “valley” Salas speaks of is the Central Valley, an 18,000 square-mile ribbon running through the heart of California bordered by the Coastal Range in the west, the Sierra in the east, the Cascades in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south.
Roughly the size of Denmark, the Central Valley is known as the breadbasket of California and is one of the most agriculturally productive areas of the United States, growing more than half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts in country. Roughly 6.5 million people live in the valley, which is the state’s fastest growing region.