Long Beach City Council sends sales tax hike measure to voters

The Port of Long Beach as seen on Thursday morning, Jan. 21, 2016.
The Port of Long Beach as seen on Thursday morning, Jan. 21, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to add a measure to the June primary ballot raising the city sales tax by 1 percent to 10 percent.

Long Beach wouldn’t be the first to adopt a 10 percent sales tax, but it could be the first major city in the state to do so. Currently, the minimum sales tax in Los Angeles County is 9 percent. Smaller cities like South Gate, La Mirada and Pico Rivera already pay 10 percent.

If approved, the new funds would cover roads, pipes and police and fire services. Both Long Beach police and fire departments have suffered a string of cutbacks. 

Like many cities, Long Beach is facing increasing expenses, including larger pension liabilities. But Long Beach is also an oil town; the city operates the Wilmington Oil Field and dozens of wells inside city limits.

Since February 2015, oil prices have dropped over 50 percent, and Long Beach has taken a hit.

"Long Beach doesn't have that revenue stream like we used to," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. "Long-term, it's not the best economy to really be involved in. I think we have to think long-term about renewable energy and other options out there."

After officials looked at alternatives like more budget cuts and higher utility bills, Garcia said they concluded a sales tax increase would be the fairest way to bring the city back into the black.

"It also includes visitors," said Garcia, speaking of who would share the tax burden. "Long Beach is a huge town with a lot  visitors, a lot of conventions, a lot of people that come into town. They will also participate in this revenue as well."

Garcia emphasized that the measure would be temporary; rates would drop half a percent after the first six years, and then expire altogether after 10 years.