No, horse-trading on gas tax legislation isn’t ‘bribery’


Politicians cutting deals to win enactment of legislation is as old as parliamentary lawmaking itself. It certainly lends itself to cynicism. “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made,” was the famous observation of Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of Germany. But after years of federal gridlock, politicians’ horse-trading to get something done seems constructive to the point of being borderline wholesome.

Which brings us to the absurd remarks of Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who asked state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent maneuvering to win passage of Senate Bill 1, a bold plan to raise gas taxes to fix California’s worn-down roads, highways and transportation infrastructure.

“I am for working toward a solution … but there is a big difference between compromise and bribery,” Melendez said in a statement citing deals Brown struck with state Sens. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, and Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, to gain their votes and benefit their districts. “That’s not ethical and I believe, if the attorney general actually looks into this, SB 1 will be found illegal.”

The kindest possible term for this view of how politics works is obtuse. Brown and accused lawmakers were right to laugh off the allegations.

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