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Election 2012: L.A. transportation taxes on ballots
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

Los Angeles area voters will cast ballots this fall on two transportation issues.

A countywide ballot question will ask voters whether to extend from 30 years to 60 years the length of a half-cent sales tax for public transportation projects across the region.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill over the weekend to include the question on Los Angeles County ballots. Measure J will ask voters whether to extend the tax increase approved four years ago through Measure R.

Tax measures require two-thirds voter approval to pass. Measure R received 67 percent of the vote.

The 2008 ballot question increased the county’s sales tax by one-half cent from 8.25 percent to 8.75 percent with the revenue to be used to fund mass transit and road projects, including carpool lanes.

At the time, the tax was expected to raise as much as $40 billion for traffic relief and transportation upgrades in Los Angeles County through 2038.

Since then, revenue estimates have dipped to $36 billion over 30 years. In an effort to make sure area transportation projects are done sooner, and ensure that funding does not dry up, Measure J would extend collection of the tax to 2069.

“We need to get these transportation projects underway now,” Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “By signing AB1446, we are empowering L.A. County voters to jumpstart 160,000 jobs and break through traffic congestion that chokes our region.”

Opponents say it is too early in the process to extend the sales tax increase. Others say they are concerned about money being devoted to transit in the region at the expense of bus service.

A separate initiative covers streetcars. Voters in downtown Los Angeles will vote in a special mail-only ballot on whether to contribute $62 million over 30 years to help fund the $125 million streetcar system.

The rest of the money to complete the four-mile trolley system stretching from Broadway to Figueroa will be sought through federal grants.

If approved by a two-thirds majority, downtown owners would be taxed according to property size and proximity to the proposed system.

Ballots will be sent by mail to 7,000 registered voters in November.

For more 2012 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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