Lawmakers give special permission to L.A. County to raise taxes

Lawmakers give special permission to L.A. County to raise taxes
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), has a bill that would allow Los Angeles County transit officials to seek a sales tax increase. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A state Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would give the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) special power to seek voter approval of a half-cent increase in the county’s sales tax to pay for transit projects.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted 8-1 to approve legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who said there are billions of dollars in transportation needs not addressed by previous tax increases.

"Los Angeles is one of the most congested transit corridors in the country," De León told the panel. He noted that Measure R approved by county voters in 2008 will provide billions of dollars for 30 years but added, "further investment is needed."

The bill still has to be approved by the full Senate and Assembly and be signed by the governor.

Voters have approved three separate measures in Los Angeles County, for a total sales tax rate of 1.5% dedicated to transportation purposes. De León's bill exempts the county from a state law capping the tax rate that can be imposed within any local jurisdiction at 2%.  Because cities within Los Angeles County are at that cap already, the county needs an exemption, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for De León.

"We are giving the people of Los Angeles County a choice," De León said of his bill, SB 767.

David Wolfe of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. opposed the measure, saying "this sets a negative precedent" and "creates a hodgepodge of sales taxes" that is confusing to retailers and consumers.

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