Opinion: MTA sales tax is on. Off. On. Whatever.


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

In case you’re keeping score at home on the on-the-ballot, off-the-ballot MTA half-cent sales tax, it’s back on the ballot. Except that it’s not. Yet.

On Tuesday, unless he changes his mind again, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe will vote to put the tax on the Nov. 4 ballot. Here’s the motion (pdf). Then the Board of Supervisors will vote to oppose the tax. Here’s that motion (pdf), offered by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Gloria Molina. Knabe is expected to vote with them.


So in the space of eight days we will have Knabe leading the board in rejecting the MTA’s somewhat ministerial request to put its item on the county ballot (the vote was 2-2, with Molina abstaining); a report from the county registrar of voters that handling the tax on a separate ballot will cost the county $10.3 million; an attempt by the MTA to get a judge to compel the county to consolidate the tax on the regular ballot (hearing is set for Wednesday and will likely be deemed moot); and an announcement by Knabe that although he voted to keep the tax off the ballot in order to protect taxpayers, he now wants it on the ballot in order to protect taxpayers. But he will still oppose the tax. In order to protect taxpayers.

Antonovich is calling on his colleagues to oppose the tax, in lieu of pushing yet another ballot measure that would have attempted to impose a geographical spending formula on the revenue. He introduced a motion to that effect in July, then withdrew it.

So it’s a done deal? Not even. It doesn’t go on the ballot without authorization by the state Legislature, which must sign off on a bill to permit the vote to go forward and to ratify the MTA’s proposed project list –- the stuff the agency intends to do with all that money the tax will bring in. Enter Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), who says the tax must fund an extension of the Green Line into Los Angeles International Airport, or forget it. The bill currently sits in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised not to sign any bill until the Legislature sends him a budget. And it doesn’t look as if there will be a budget anytime soon.

Hear two KPCC interviews here: Times columnist and KPCC host Patt Morrison on Friday with Times transportation reporter Steve Hymon, Assembly Bill 2321 author Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), and representatives of the MTA and Supervisor Don Knabe; and Larry Mantle with Mayor and MTA board chairman Antonio Villaraigosa (for the tax) and Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich (against the tax).

Photos credits: LAT/Robert Gauthier (Knabe); LAT/Lori Shepler (Oropeza)