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City leaders hope voters go for sales tax increase with Measure A

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John Rabe

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are backing the Yes on Measure A campaign, saying it's crucial to maintaining public safety.

Next week, Los Angeles voters will be asked whether to increase the city’s sales tax by a half-cent.

Measure A would increase L.A.s sales tax from 9 percent to 9.5 percent. That would be higher than the sales tax in New York City and Chicago, but would match the rate in Santa Monica, Inglewood and El Monte. L.A. city leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, are boosting Measure A as a way to close the city’s looming $216 million deficit.

“I know there are some who will [ask] ' Is this the right time?' But the fact of the matter is, when you look at the kinds of tough decisions that we’ve made, when you look at the cuts, the efficiencies, the consolidations of departments that we’ve made over the years, I can now support a sales tax increase,” Villaraigosa said at a recent news conference.

The mayor is not alone. Both the police and fire chiefs back the tax increase. A committee supporting Measure A has received major financial support from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, billboard companies, City Hall lobbyists and unions. The committee is spending that money on mailers and a television commercial featuring L.A.’s police chief.

In the spot, as a beeping heart monitor flatlines, Chief Charlie Beck says: “public safety is now in danger.”

Supporters argue that police and fire resources will be diminished without the influx of cash, but the new tax dollars would actually go into the city’s General Fund. They would not be earmarked for any one purpose. And the public safety argument might not be working. A recent survey by ABC 7 found just a quarter of likely voters support the tax hike. Jack Humphreville, who contributes to a City Hall watchdog website, helped write the ballot argument against Measure A.

“If it were a temporary tax increase and [city leaders] promised to go out there and reform – give us budget reform, pension reform and workplace reform – that’s one thing, but they’re not willing to do anything there,” Humphreville said.

Opponents often say sales taxes are regressive and have a greater impact on low-income households. All of the major mayoral candidates are opposed to Measure A. Two of them — Kevin James and Jan Perry — have signed the ballot argument against the measure, which needs a simple majority to pass.

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