Knabe Signals He'll Support Putting County Sales Tax Hike On Ballot w/ Changes Despite Email & Calls Running 5-1 Against It; Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n Accuses Supes Of Buck-Passing on Public Safety; Vote Delayed To Finalize Language
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(July 13, 2004, updated text) -- After acknowledging that his emails and phone calls were running 5-1 opposed, L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe -- who represents LB and surrounding areas -- signaled his intention today to support putting a measure on the November L.A. County ballot that (if approved by a 2/3 voter margin) would boost L.A. County's sales tax by a half cent to 8.75%.
The matter became a Board of Supervisors issue after L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca failed in his attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures to put the measure on the ballot...and asked the Supervisors to do so. That requires four "yes" votes from the five-person Board.
Whatever ultimately appears on the ballot is now up to the Supervisors...and may differ in one key respect from Sheriff Baca's original proposal: its "maintenance of effort" requirement for local government. That provision specifies what local government must do to provide the added public safety for which they'd be taking the increased sales tax that the public would be paying.
During the Supervisors' colloquy, it was revealed that a meeting took place on July 9 that dealt with redrafting portions of Baca's original verbiage and involved representatives of various City Halls and local agencies throughout L.A. County. LBReport.com has learned that this meeting included LBPD Chief Anthony Batts. Details on that meeting were not immediately available...but the meeting resulted in a revised version of the measure coming to the Board of Supervisors July 13 meeting with a tighter (more stringent) maintenance of effort requirement.
The revised measure drew resistance from the City of Glendora, which backed Baca's original verbiage and said it was prepared to oppose the redrafted measure with the tighter maintenance of effort language.
Supervisors Yvonne Burke and Zev Yaroslavsky expressed some sympathy with Glendora City Hall's position. "Is there a way we can fine tune this [maintenance of effort section], or modify it, so that you don't have an unintended consequence of a city's financial budget imploding over a [maintenance of effort] requirement of this type," Supervisor Yaroslavsky asked.
L.A. County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen replied, "Yes...If the maintenance of effort was tied to the revenue source, that would deal the problem that they're talking about. You wouldn't then be forcing people [local government bodies] to grow beyond the resources available. I think the real concern here is that the new money not be supplanted, that it be used for law enforcement purposes, not that it drive increased expenditures in the rest of the city or the county's budget above what they can afford..."
Supervisor Knabe did not oppose "tweaking" the maintenance of effort requirement...and added his own proposed amendment:
[updated verbatim text]
Amendment to S-1
The intent of this initiative is to maintain, improve, or expand funding for law enforcement and public safety. As such, there should not be language in the approving ordinance that would allow for a reduction in general fund support for participating agencies below the fiscal year 2003-2004 level. In addition, supplanting revenue, or allowing for proceeds from this initiative to be used under certain financial circumstances to meet the Maintenance of Efforts (MOE) or base year FY 2003-2004 funding level should not be a part of the language.
I, THEREFORE, MOVE THAT:
On page two, first paragraph of the ordinance be changed to read: For purposes of this paragraph, the adopted budget for the 2003-2004 fiscal year may be adjusted only upon a two-thirds vote of the local governing body to reflect reduced expenditures necessitated by reductions in state and federal assistance, or reductions in any other revenue source beyond the control of that local government entity.
On page two, paragraph (D) be changed to read: if a loss or reduction in local general purpose financial resources occurs, proceeds from this ordinance may be used to ensure public safety funding is not reduced below the adopted budget for the 2003-2004 fiscal year, only if local financial resources to public safety are not reduced more than the total percent of the loss or reduction within the affected year, and only upon a two-thirds vote of the local governing body.
I, FURTHER MOVE, THAT, any inference throughout the body of the ordinance that relates to the language noted above be changed to reflect the additional language regarding the two-thirds vote of governing bodies to effectuate supplanting of revenue.
County staff was instructed to combine the Supervisors' suggestions into a final draft for a vote on July 20. Supervisor Knabe withheld voicing final approval of the measure until he could see the final language.
Despite uncertainty over exactly what the measure will say, representatives of police and fire organizations, unions and management from a number of City Halls lined up to support the proposed sales tax increase. Citing homeland security, gang and other violent crime, they urged the Supervisors to put the measure on the ballot so the public could decide.
Ted Hunt of the LAPD Police Protective League said, "We encourage you to put this on the ballot. Certainly there will be opposition, but allow the voters to vote on it."
As previously reported by LBReport.com, LB Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga and LBPD Chief Anthony Batts spoke in favor of the sales tax increase at the June 29 Supervisors' meeting. In January, LB's City Council voted (7-2, Webb and Lerch dissenting) to support Baca's measure in its original form (which was crafted with input from LB city management), contending it could bring roughly $21 million annually to LB City Hall.
But Kris Vosburgh, Executive Director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association told Supervisors:
Let me assure you there is no public groundswell of support to raise taxes in L.A. County. That may have something to do with the fact that we are already in a high tax state and this is a high tax County. Look around you. Orange County is a half cent lower in its sales tax. Ventura County is a penny lower in its sales tax. Raise this and you run the same risk that Pete Wilson ran when he raised taxes in 1991. The state took in less money the following year. It's the old adage that economists will tell you, if you want less of something, in this case business activity, tax it more. You're going to run more people to make their purchases out of the County and on the internet..."
Acknowledging the presence of law enforcement backers of the tax increase, Mr. Vosburgh said:
Now you'll notice that the people coming before you today are not the recipients of the public services. They're the providers. I doubt if you find that to be any great surprise, but those of us who are concerned about higher taxes, we note that...The providers become something of a perpetual motion machine and very often when they're seeking more money, what they're really seeking is the opportunity for more pay and benefits for themselves or those they supervise...
When Supervisor Yarloslavsky asked whether Mr. Vosburgh would object to putting the tax increase proposal on the ballot "so that the people can make that decision," Mr. Vosburgh shot back:
"I think this is busy work and I think it's passing the buck quite frankly. You folks should take responsibility for public safety and make it your top priority. No, you should not put it on the ballot."
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