Vote on Tax for Police May Be Put Off

Times Staff Writer

Despite a week of campaigning by Mayor James K. Hahn for a sales tax increase to pay for more police officers, the Los Angeles City Council appears likely to reject putting the measure before voters in March.

“Haste makes waste,” council President Alex Padilla said Friday, echoing the concerns of at least eight other council members who said they were uncomfortable with Hahn’s push to put another tax proposal before voters so soon after a county sales tax measure to boost funding for law enforcement failed.

“I’m supportive of trying to do something, but we need to be smart about it,” said Padilla, who played a major role in the campaign to pass the countywide measure.


Three days after Measure A failed to win the necessary two-thirds vote Nov. 2, Hahn told the media that he wanted the council to put a similar measure on the same city ballot as the mayoral election.

The tax increase would boost local sales taxes to 8.75% from 8.25%.

The county measure -- which would have provided an estimated $560 million a year for more police officers, sheriff’s deputies and law enforcement programs -- won support from 64% of the voters in the city of Los Angeles.

This week, the mayor went on local radio stations to push a city measure, which he said could raise money for 1,200 new police officers. “Any time you have 64% of people saying they want something

To get a measure on the March 8 ballot, the council must direct the city attorney to prepare the official language no later than Tuesday.

Hahn, who is also up for reelection in March in what is expected to be a tough race, was unavailable to comment Friday evening because he was meeting with the visiting president of South Korea.

But mayoral spokeswoman Shannon Murphy said that Hahn remained supportive of putting a sales tax measure on either the March or May ballot, when a mayoral runoff would occur.

“The mayor said all along that he wants to do what makes sense,” Murphy said. “He’s still committed to his goal, which is making L.A. the safest big city in America.”

But many council members worry that a sales tax increase just in Los Angeles could hurt business at the same time that city leaders are planning to cut business taxes to make Los Angeles more business-friendly. Facing higher taxes, council members fear, consumers would do their shopping in adjacent communities.

“My district is right next to Burbank and Glendale and West Hollywood,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes Hollywood and parts of the southeastern San Fernando Valley. “I’m concerned about that.”

At the same time, council sources said, the influential chief legislative analyst’s office, which provides analyses for the City Council, is expected to recommend against a March sales tax measure when a council committee takes up the proposal Monday

Padilla and other council members said Friday that they were not opposed to considering a future city sales tax measure, possibly even one on the May 17 ballot.

But the council president said that city leaders needed to analyze why Measure A failed, particularly in precincts with a high concentration of African-American voters. “The trust factor is not something that we can resolve in four days,” Padilla said.

Council members have also asked city officials to analyze alternative ways to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be needed to add 1,200 officers to the police force, which has about 9,000 officers.

Among the other ideas are a parcel tax or higher garbage fees, both of which are also politically sensitive.