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    MTA Readying County Sales Tax Hike Prop

    (June 20, 2008) -- Prior to the June 3 election (in which LB area Dems chose LB Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal as their November nominee for state Assembly), warned that the governing Board of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (on which Vice Mayor Lowenthal is a member) is readying a sales tax hike proposal for L.A. County taxpayers.

    Now that the June election is safely decided, the tax hike suppository is being prepared for administration.

    On June 26, the MTA Board will convene in its Taj Majal L.A. HQ and almost certainly urge that L.A. County taxpayers, who we believe already pay the second highest sales tax rate in the state, pay another half-cent on the sale of items already taxed.

    This regressive additional tax will make the sale of countless items more expensive, disproportionately impact the poor and make L.A. County businesses less competitive than they are now.

    The MTA Board can't do this by itself; it needs an enabling majority of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (which has done such a swell job running the County) to put it on the ballot (which it likely will do).

    Then a congestion of various stooges and special interests (from both sides of the political spectrum) will materialize, an unholy alliance of moneyed interests that will try to sucker taxpayers into passing this stinker.

    As part of the spin for this, the MTA recently issued a release worthy of George Orwell (love is hate, war is peace), arguing (apparently grounded in former east European economics) that the sales tax hike will "jump start" L.A.'s economy. We provide this masterpiece verbatim:

    [begin text]

    With the Metro Board of Directors scheduled to discuss a proposal for a new transportation half cent sales tax ballot measure at its June 26 meeting, local economists are projecting that such a tax would not only help ease traffic but would stimulate the Los Angeles County economy in a major way.

    The private nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) estimated the economic impact in Los Angeles County of transportation projects that would be financed by a new sales tax. The construction would generate $32 billion in local economic activity and create employment equivalent to 210,000 full-time, year-long jobs spread over a 30-year construction period.

    The LAEDC also found that the tax increase would cost residents just $25 more per person annually. Residents will pay about 42 percent of the sales tax raised with businesses and tourists footing the rest of the bill. In contrast, the American Automobile Association and the TRIP transportation research group estimate that traffic congestion costs county residents more than $2,000 per person a year for wasted fuel, productivity and sales and other costs.

    At its June meeting, the Metro Board will discuss a proposal for putting a new half-cent sales tax for transportation on the November ballot but will not consider final adoption of an ordinance to accomplish that until its July meeting. If it goes on the ballot and garners two thirds approval by voters, the new tax would generate $1 billion annually over a 20 or 30 year period and would finance dozens of street and highway improvements and new public transit projects in Los Angeles County.

    Specific projects will be listed in the Board report along with options for accelerating the schedule of new rail and bus projects already in the pipeline if a tax is approved by voters. The report also will include a list of short-term transportation improvements that could ease traffic and a draft ordinance.

    The tax discussion will coincide with the Metro Board's review of the agency's draft Long Range Transportation Plan that looks ahead to the year 2030 and addresses mobility improvements necessary for handling another 2 million people living in the county and exponential growth in truck and rail traffic moving cargo from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    While the draft plan identifies funds for transit operations and many new highway and transit projects, there is a significant funding shortfall. There is no funding for critical Tier 1 projects such as the Westside subway extension, the Foothill Metro Gold Line Extension, a downtown regional connector, 710 Freeway gap closure, and other transportation projects.

    For more information on Metro's draft Long Range Transportation Plan, go to

    Faced with mounting traffic congestion, a number of community and business organizations and local government have expressed support for putting a new local sales tax for transportation on the ballot including the City of Los Angeles, CALPIRG, Environment California, Los Angeles Business Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, and Building L.A.'s Future.

    Meanwhile, LB Mayor Bob Foster is poised to unveil whatever it is he's fermenting behind closed doors for the November 2008 LB city ballot, some kind of "infrastructure" funding measure that we suspect will be another taxpayer suppository.

    We hope the recently-formed LB Taxpayers Association will provide an overdue check and balance in both these processes. machinery.

    And finally, in the same November election, LB-SP-PV area residents will choose their next Sacramento Assembly rep. This will come just months after Dem candidate Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal will have likely voted to advance the County sales tax hike and perhaps a LB tax hike of some kind.

    The check and balance there is for the Repub candidate, Gabriella Holt, to the face of L.A. business interests already on record as supporting the County sales tax hike.

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