In addition to state bond measures 1A, 3, 10 and 12 (that’ll add billions of dollars to California’s budget deficit) and tax increase measures from both the city of Santa Monica and Santa Monica College, there’s also Los Angeles County Measure R on November’s ballot for local voters to ponder.
If approved by a two-thirds vote, Measure R would raise Los Angeles County’s sales tax from 8.25 cents to 8.75 cents per every dollar. Money collected would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for a long list of transit projects, including completion of the Exposition Light Rail line into Santa Monica and the Westside Metro Rail (Purple Line) extension from Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Westwood Village to service Century City and Westwood/UCLA. Years from now and with another future funding scheme, the “Subway to the Sea” could eventually reach Ocean Avenue.
According to Metro’s glossy, color booklet just mailed to L.A. County residents, Measure R could raise “$40 billion for congestion relief projects.”
Over its 30-year life span (depending on the state of the economy and consumer spending), about 65 percent of the revenue would be used to expand the county’s bus and rail systems, while 35 percent would be earmarked for highways, streets and, potentially, bikeways and sidewalks. Metro cautiously notes, “Measure R will not fully fund all projects.”
R is not the magic pill for traffic woes. It’ll take years for projects to begin construction let alone start operation. Even more problematic is that monies generated will partially pay for infrastructure that may or may not reduce traffic congestion.
It’s also possible that tax revenues may go to projects in other parts of the county such as the San Gabriel Valley Gold Line extension, or run short of money, leaving projects in limbo and awaiting Metro’s next sales tax hike.
I admit there’s a need for more mass transit, but this funding is another regressive taxing scheme that overly burdens the poor. With property adjacent to transit routes jumping in value, how about special taxing districts? Bonds? And private/public partnerships like both the railroads and London Underground have in England, instead?
Heck, Measure R wouldn’t even be necessary if our elected representatives, like our Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and the rest of the Legislature, didn’t keep ripping off gas tax money from transportation funds to “fix” shortfalls in the state budget. Me? I’m fed up with “robbing Peter to pay Paul” crap. Voting for any Metro transit tax scheme just gives clueless politicians the green light to keep on stealing transportation funds and dipping into our wallets.
If R wins, 1.5 percent of local sales taxes would go to Metro. “Taxpayers in our county already pay the second-highest tax rate in California, behind only Alameda County,” L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe told the Daily Breeze (6-30-08). Metro’s proposed increase would unfairly push our local tax rate even higher. “This tax increase, at this time, is an unnecessary burden on residents,” Knabe said.
Metro claims, “Measure R would cost residents an average of $25 per person each year.” It would add an extra $125 in sales taxes on the purchase of a $25,000 car in the county.
R is the third half-penny sales tax increase for Metro. L.A. County’s sales tax already includes two previous half-cent levies approved by voters in 1980 and 1990 that paid for buses, construction of the Red Line subway and some light rail lines.
Meanwhile, Metro and its transit supporters are spending millions of dollars to pass this measure. One of those supporters is former Mayor, Councilman and former Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights Co-Chair Denny Zane. Zane is executive director of Move L..A., the Subway to the Sea Coalition and is the man behind the Los Angeles County Transportation Funding Collaborative — the nonprofit that pushed for a half-cent sales tax levy at its regional transit funding conference last January.
All this is mind-boggling when you consider that the Zane and his SMRR-controlled City Council have for decades — and still are — doing everything they can to slow and gridlock traffic while trying to force Santa Monicans out of personal vehicles and onto busses or bicycles. I guess social engineers never fade away, they just go on to bigger, and in the case of Zane, more profitable causes.
Zane’s firm, Urban Dimensions, runs and manages political campaigns. Coincidentally, “Mr. Taxman” Zane has a $60-grand annual contract with Santa Monica College and currently runs Measure AA, SMC’s $295-million bond proposal. He’s also a signatory on the ballot argument for Measure SM which would expand the 10 percent Santa Monica Utility Users tax. Zane’s paid involvement with R is unknown.
On a totally different track, St. Anne’s School at 2015 Colorado Ave. celebrated its 100th birthday last weekend. Congratulations on a century of quality Catholic education. Party on!
Bill Bauer can be reached at email@example.com