Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA City Council votes to place sales tax increase on March 2013 ballot

City Councilman Herb J. Wesson Jr.

Andres Aguila/KPCC

A sales tax increase backed by Council President Herb Wesson was approved for the March 2013 ballot in a vote of 11-4.

A sales tax increase that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the City of Los Angeles will appear on the March 2013 ballot.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 11-4 Tuesday to place the tax measure on the March 5 ballot. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he will return the measure to the council without his signature, which will allow the measure to appear on the ballot. 

Council President Herb Wesson proposed the tax increase, saying it could bring in $215 million a year for basic city services. Los Angeles is expected to start the next fiscal year in July with a $216 million deficit. 

Villaraigosa released a statement that said:  "I will not ask the people of Los Angeles to support higher taxes until the City Council makes progress on a set of new reforms that will make us more efficient, accountable and competitive. We must tie new revenue to new reforms.” 

The sales tax measure beat out other proposals that would have increased real estate and parking taxes. Wesson was accused of pushing the sales tax measure to appease the real estate lobby, which argued that increasing the documentary transfer tax would have a negative impact on property sales. However, the council president said the sales tax would generate the most revenue for the city and that, without it, as many as 1,400 city workers could be laid off.

Council members Mitch Englander, Dennis Zine, Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti voted against the tax. Perry and Garcetti will both appear on the March ballot as mayoral candidates. Zine, too, will be on the ballot as a candidate for city controller. 

The tax is opposed by SEIU Local 721, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, and former Mayor Richard Riordan. 

If the tax is approved by voters, sales tax in the L.A. city limits would be 9.5 percent beginning on July 1, 2013. 

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