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Council approves sales tax increase for March ballot

By Aaron Blevins, 11/15/2012

Additional funding raised could help increase services

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The Los Angeles City Council has proposed a permanent half-cent sales tax increase in hopes of maintaining staffing levels for the city’s public safety agencies and offsetting state cuts that have challenged those organizations.

Proposed by Council President Herb Wesson, 10th District, the increase would raise approximately $200 million, which could almost negate next year’s projected $216 million deficit. However, Angelenos will need to approve the increase as early as March.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, voted in favor of putting the resolution on the ballot, saying that the city is having trouble paying for basic services. He said the issue will go before the council again, as the required council majority was not reached.

“It’s up to the people of Los Angeles to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on this issue,” LaBonge said. “We are challenged at this moment, and will be for a while. Will it help bridge the gap? Yes. Is it fairer than property tax? Absolutely.”

He said the council will continue to discuss the proposed tax increase, but he would like area neighborhood councils to weigh in on the issue. Regardless, LaBonge feels that it is essential for Los Angeles.

“I think it’s an important investment — trees aren’t getting trimmed, roads aren’t getting fixed,” he added.

According to the mayor’s office, the city has relied on spending cuts rather than creating new revenue to balance the budget. The city has cut the General Fund civilian workforce by one-third, eliminating approximately 5,000 positions. Several city agencies have also been consolidated or eliminated.

“Having undergone five years of drastic budget and service reductions, the prospect of a much-needed increase in base revenue in Los Angeles is something we should consider,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote to the council. “However, we cannot lose sight of the urgent and ongoing need to follow through with necessary cost-cutting actions, public-private partnership initiatives and municipal efficiency efforts.”

LaBonge cautioned that the resolution, if passed, would not be a cure-all. However, it will benefit everything from public works and health to education and humanities, he said.

“It will balance the ability to do basic services,” LaBonge added.

He acknowledged that there is some opposition to the tax increase proposal. Those same individuals are also opposed to potholes and decay, LaBonge said.

“People will have to consider it and hopefully they would vote for it, because we do need to make an investment in our infrastructure,” he added.

Councilman Eric Garcetti, 13th District, voted against the resolution, saying that he believes the city should strive to grow its economy to help residents pay the bills and help the city provide essential services.

“I believe that the focus must be on growing our economy and creating jobs,” he said.

In his letter to the council, Villaraigosa said that, before he supports the ballot measure, he would like to see the council move forward with a new operating model for the Los Angeles Zoo, an alternative management structure for the Los Angeles Convention Center, position cuts, department consolidations, the creation of a new economic development entity and the establishment of the city’s Budget Stabilization Fund. He also asked that the Los Angeles Police Department’s hiring rates be maintained.

 

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