Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Sales tax increase could appear on Los Angeles' March 2013 ballot

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A proposal to increase the City of Los Angeles’ sales tax by a half-cent was preliminarily approved for the March 2013 ballot Tuesday in a 10-4 vote of the Los Angeles City Council.

The sales tax proposal will need a second approval next week – with at least 10 votes – to appear on the March 5th ballot. Because voters approved Proposition 30, the sales tax is already increasing to 9 percent on Jan. 1. If the city's measure gets on the ballot and passes, the sales tax would increase to 9.5 percent. 

Two of the dissenting council members — Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti — are also mayoral hopefuls whose names could appear alongside the proposed tax in March.  Also voting against the tax were councilmen Dennis Zine and Mitch Englander.

“We’ve got to be able to demonstrate that we’ve exhausted all of our resources,  that we’ve turned over every stone," Englander said. "That we’ve gone down and cut not only the fat and the bone and muscle as some people are suggesting but we’ve actually gotten rid of all of the other additional things we shouldn’t be doing — all of the other additional layers." 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote a letter to the City Council along those same lines. He encouraged the 15-member body to get the Convention Center and Los Angeles Zoo under private management. The mayor also wants the Budget and Finance Committee to eliminate 209 positions that he says the city can no longer afford to keep.

The chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Councilman Paul Krekorian, urged support for the tax increase, arguing that without it, city services would continue to fall into disrepair.

“When this city doesn’t function, when you can’t drive on the streets, when you can’t walk on the sidewalk, when we’re laying our employees off and putting them on the welfare rolls, that affects jobs and that affects our economy and that affects our city’s friendliness toward business as well,” Krekorian said.

Hiking the city’s sales tax would, according to city officials, bring in an additional $215 million a year for the General Fund, which pays for basic city services such as police, firefighters and sidewalk repairs. If approved by voters, the tax would take effect on July 1, 2013. At the same time, L.A. is expected to start fiscal year 2013-14 at least $216 million in the hole. 

“We need time to slow down and breathe, which is what this sales tax will do," said Council President Herb Wesson. "It will afford each and every one of us the opportunity to do forward thinking where it relates to our future.”   

The sales tax increase would require a simple majority of the electorate for approval. 

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