By Ken Alpern, January 5, 2016
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--There has been talk for years about building
on the momentum of Measure R, the last of three passed sales taxes used
to fund and maintain transportation infrastructure for the past few
decades. Some worry that the taxpaying public's patience to wait
decades more for projects already decades overdue is gone.
Unfortunately, we STILL don't know how to followup on the successful
Measure R sales tax.
Measure J, a 2012 followup tax measure to
expedite projects funded by the 2008 Measure R half-cent sales
tax, which ensured and expedited funding of the Expo, Foothill Gold,
Crenshaw/LAX, Downtown Connector, and Wilshire Subway lines, as well as a
host of freeway and road upgrades combined with operational expenses,
actually was APPROVED by 66.1% of the voters but didn't hit the 66.7%
voter tax threshold to officially PASS.
Whether or not one agrees that we need another transportation sales tax
has nothing to do with the fact that 66.1% is still a majority--in one
way, shape, or form, most of us feel we need more transportation
But WHICH type of tax, and for WHAT projects, is HOW
Metro will need to proceed in order to win in November 2016. And it
finally IS 2016.
Many voters are angry, and feeling fleeced,
about spending good money after bad. How DO voters feel about pensions,
and how their city/county taxes are being spent? You know, the taxes
ALREADY being spent, and for which many feel should have paid for this
This is particularly true for the City of LA (which, for
many who don't know it, is quite different than the County of LA).
We're being asked to pay for sidewalks, roads, sewers, etc. that should
have been paid for over the past 15-20 years but which went to all sorts
of different locations instead--such as City giveaways to special
interests, City retirees who abused the pension system, and unaffordable
So how do we proceed?
1) Do we extend Measure R,
which expires in 2039, to 2057? That would allow the Measure R projects
to be built much sooner by borrowing on the future. New taxes: $0.
Do we create a new half-cent sales tax from 2017-2017? That would be a
new tax, and the fourth transportation sales tax for our county.
Do we do both? That would raise $120 billion for approximately $156
billion need to construct countywide projects currently prioritized by
local governments and voter feedback (the rest would come from the state
and federal governments).
If we want it all, we'll need to do both.
Do we want that San Fernando Valley to Westside rail tunnel under the Sepulveda pass or not?
Do we want the Wilshire Blvd. Subway to the Beach built in our lifetime or not?
Do we want all the countywide roads and freeways upgraded or not?
Do we want the operations of all these buses and rail lines beefed up and funded or not?
Yet do we have the actual political will to do all this ... or not?
least we have more time than the last-second Measure J, which still
almost passed. And certainly the prospect of the 2024 Olympics is one
to make most of us motivated to do yet one more sales tax
hike...presuming that the argument and pitch can be made that LA
City/County will make money off that Olympics if it comes here.
the recognition of how our tourism industry is growing, and how it
relies on transportation/transit, will help convince more voters.
there are other swaths of voters who will demand to be heard--in
particular, motorists who have been abused and bullied simply because
they need their car to access their work and other destinations (and
with precious few alternative choices that are viable and aren't
associated with all sorts of painful sacrifice).
Which is kind of key, because those motorists will be paying the bill for any new sales tax extension/hike.
2016 is NOT very far away, and the need to tell voters what they'll pay
for in any new sales tax hike and/or extension is paramount.
the reasons for voters to be fed up with how their current taxes are
being spent, and the reasons for voters to avoid adding any new tax fuel
to the government spending wildfire (to say nothing of resultant
overdevelopment that is turning our formerly-favored rail lines into
potentially-dangerous blight-magnets), are myriad and impossible to
So the need to replicate the transparency and credibility
of Measure R must be finalized ASAP--with many taxpayers probably
annoyed that the final product of the voting initiative for 2016 isn't
Particularly for an initiative which many
voters--even pro-transportation voters like myself--are ambivalent and
really wondering to vote yes or no on a November 2016 initiative in an
era where we need more mobility but rightfully blame the local
governments for causing the mobility problem to begin with.