‘More Cuts’ Or Tax Hike? LA City Council Mulls Options
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday moved forward with four tax proposals that could go before voters next March.
KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports the Los Angeles City Council signaled its strongest support for a half-cent sales tax increase proposed by Council President Herb Wesson.
Officials say the proposed increase – which would make the city’s 9.25 percent sales tax rate among the highest in the nation – could raise nearly $220 million annually for the city, which faces budget deficit of $216 million for the next fiscal year starting July 1.
The Council has directed the City Attorney’s Office to draft ballot language for the tax increase proposals, which also include a $39 parcel tax that would raise a projected $30 million annually and would primarily go towards funding the struggling Department of Recreation and Parks.
Councilman Tom LaBonge acknowledged the challenge lawmakers face in presenting the proposals to taxpayers.
“What we have to do is stand up and say, ‘Here’s a menu, Los Angeles, these are things you can choose to invest in Los Angeles,” LaBonge said.
Other options included a tax on home sales that would raise a projected $80 million in annual revenue, and a tax on private parking lot owners – which would in turn result in a hike in parking rates – that could bring in over $40 million per year.
Ann Williams with the Central City Association of Los Angeles is among those business leaders who have voiced their concerns about raising the fee at parking lots.
“We would’ve appreciated being part of the discussion before we found ourselves at this stage,” Williams said.
Chief City Administrator Miguel Santana told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that while the choices may not be ideal, any one of them would help maintain safety, parks and other core services.
“Do we continue making more cuts, laying off more employees, reducing our public safety capacity, or do we contribute a little bit more?” asked Santana.
Santana and the City Council believe voters will be more supportive of any tax that would bolster city finances rather than going to the state.
“It’s more palatable than taxes that go up to Sacramento,” he said. “I think what we find is that people wanted to have a certain level of services, and they’re willing to pay as long as those services are protected.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave his support for extending the half-cent sales tax in Los Angeles County indefinitely to help speed up transit projects.
The council has until Nov. 14 to decide which ones to advance to the March 5 municipal primary election ballot.