DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In a city where potholes are plentiful and walking earthquake-marred sidewalks can be an adventure, lawmakers are backing a proposed ballot measure that would generate billions of dollars for street repair by raising the sales tax.
Residents turned up in droves Wednesday night for a meeting on the issue at LA City Hall.
The councilmembers behind the “Save Our Streets” movement say they don’t usually support raising taxes but think this is the best way to address this infrastructure crisis.
“I have voted against every fee and tax increase, every DWP rate increase. I didn’t run for office to vote for sales tax increases, but we’ve got to invest in our streets, they affect people each and every day. What we heard loud and clear is that we have do something about our sidewalks, as well,” said City Councilman Mitchell Englander said.
The proposed ballot measure would increase the sales tax by a half-cent for 15 years to 9.5 percent in the city.
“I don’t agree that we need to increase our sales tax by a half-percent to a job-killing 9.5 percent over the next 15 years, and that’s for a couple of reasons. First of all, I don’t think Angelenos could afford it,” CityWatch columnist Jack Humphreville said.
Supporters of “Save Our Streets” say it would mandate that the money raised could only go towards repairing streets and sidewalks. They say the tax would generate $4.5 billion over the life of the increase, with $3.86 billion going towards fixing damaged streets and $640 million going towards repairing sidewalks.
“We pay as we go, creating jobs, we have a true citizens oversight committee – we’re pushing the importance of insuring that the money that’s approved gets out of the hands of politicians and gets spent wisely on our streets and failing sidewalks,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said.
To pass, the proposed ballot measure would need two-thirds voter approval to pass.
But with a different movement in LA County to raise the sales tax another half-cent on the 2016 ballot, the prospect of a 10 percent sales tax could be a turnoff to some voters.
“I think good streets and good sidewalks are a basic right. That’s something you expect from the city that they should have been financing all along,” Humphreville said.
To get the proposed measure on the ballot, supporters will need to obtain LA City Council approval during a July 2 vote, which would then put the issue in front of voters this fall.