Opponents of sales tax hike make last pitch to voters

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Opponents of a sales tax hike on Tuesday’s ballot in Los Angeles made an eleventh-hour case against the measure, saying it would hurt working families and harm the city’s business climate.

City Council members Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry on Monday joined two council candidates -- David Roberts and Emile Mack -- to denounce the measure, which would generate more than $200 million annually and push the city’s rate from 9 to 9.5%.


The event, held outside City Hall, was the only one staged during this year’s campaign by opponents of Proposition A. Parks, a former police chief, said he and his allies called the news conference out of concern that “scare tactics” staged by backers of the measure were persuading the public.

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For more than a week, the Proposition A campaign has been running TV ads that feature Police Chief Charlie Beck warning that public safety services are in danger. The warning accompanies images of patients being rushed to hospitals and firetrucks racing to emergencies.

Backers of the measure contend that the sales tax hike is needed to prevent reductions in staffing at the Police and Fire Departments. The USC Price/L.A. Times Poll, taken between Feb. 24 and 27, found that 53% of respondents favored the tax and 41% opposed it.

A further 6% of those surveyed, many of them Democrats, were undecided, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/L.A. Times Los Angeles City Primary Poll found.

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Proponents of the tax, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Council President Herb Wesson, argue that the city’s leaders have already made tough decisions to balance the budget. Those include cutting the size of the workforce and rolling back retirement benefits for new employees; they argue that extra revenue now is needed to avoid more reductions.

Perry, who is running for mayor, said businesses would be less likely to relocate to the city if Proposition A is passed. And Parks said a defeat of the measure would force unions back to the table to renegotiate a two-year series of raises that is expected to add $167 million to the city’s financial burden by summer 2014.

Harvey Englander, a consultant on the Proposition A campaign, said he found Parks’ statements ‘perplexing,’ since the councilman voted to put the tax measure on the ballot last fall. ‘Prop. A will cost the average Angeleno about $30 per year, which is about [the] cost of a store-bought cup of coffee each month,’ he said in a statement.

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Monday’s event showed the huge financial gulf between the opposing sides on Proposition A. Backers of the measure have raised $1.5 million for their campaign, much of it from public employee labor unions, developers and billboard companies doing business at City Hall.

At Parks’ event, opponents of Proposition A stood next to a lectern decorated with a red, handmade poster that said ‘No on Prop. A’ in black letters. The poster was made by Parks’ son -- who is his chief of staff -- and the councilman’s 3-year-old granddaughter.

“Don’t make fun of my sign. Me and my 3-year-old made it last night,” said Bernard Parks. Jr.


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-- David Zahniser and Jessica Garrison at Los Angeles City Hall