By Steve Hymon, March 11, 2015
As many of you know, Metro has been exploring the possibility of
going to Los Angeles County voters with a ballot measure in Nov. 2016.
Although no decision on the ballot measure has been made — I can’t
emphasize that enough — a state bill that would allow Metro to seek a
new sales tax via the ballot has been introduced by State Sen. Kevin de
Leon. It is SB 767; click here to read the text of the bill.
The decision on any type of ballot measure will ultimately be made by
the 13-member Metro Board of Directors, the elected officials and their
appointees who oversee Metro. The Board in 2013 asked Metro staff to
begin asking cities in L.A. County and other interested parties for
their input about a potential ballot measure — in particular about
transportation projects that cities would like to see funded.
Some history: L.A. County voters have approved three half-cent sales
tax increases to fund projects and programs in L.A. County: Prop A in
1980, Prop C in 1990 and Measure R in 2008. The Prop A and Prop C sales
tax increases remain in effect until voters decide to end them. Measure R
was a 30-year sales tax increase that went into effect July 1, 2009,
and expires on June 30, 2039; Measure R is generating the funding behind
the five rail projects that Metro is currently building, as well as
highway projects that Metro helps fund in coordination with Caltrans.
A ballot measure (Measure J) to extend Measure R another 30 years
went to voters in Nov. 2012. It garnered 66.1 percent approval from
voters but failed because it did not meet the two-thirds (66.67 percent)
approval required for passage.
Metro staff is expected to release details on a proposed ballot
measure later this year. One interesting fact: Nine of the 13 current
Metro Board Members were not on the Board in 2008 when Measure R was
placed on the county ballot — and three Board Members have joined the
Board since this past December (Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis
and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts). At this time, I don’t think anyone
can predict what the Board will or won’t do — especially since there is
not an actual expenditure plan yet. Metro will also presumably have a
new CEO by the time the ballot measure issue reaches the Board.
The state bill allowing Measure R to go to voters was signed into
law just weeks ahead of the Nov. 2008 election, a reflection of the fact
that the agency didn’t ultimately decide to pursue the ballot measure
until spring and summer of 2008. It’s different this time around with a
lot more lead time although the state bill certainly doesn’t guarantee
anything will happen.