California law clears path for Los Angeles transportation tax vote

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/28/2015

Voters in Los Angeles County could soon get the opportunity to decide whether they want to increase their taxes to aid transportation work.

California law allows cities and counties to impose sales and use taxes beyond the state sales tax – dubbed transactions and use taxes – up to a combined 2 percent rate with voter approval.

Los Angeles County already collects a 1.5 cent sales tax that is dedicated to transportation purposes.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to authorize the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to impose by ordinance an additional local, countywide, one-half cent sales tax.

Specifically, SB767 asks county voters to pass a sales-tax increase to fund public transit improvements and “traffic reduction projects.” Approval would require a two-thirds majority vote.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said the governor’s signature will give the county’s voters the power to raise funds for transportation solutions critical to the region’s future.

“Time stuck in traffic is time not being productive ...,” de Leon said in prepared remarks. “With voter approval, L.A. County can expand its transit system, address key highway needs around the county, bolster local transportation programs, and support sustainable development.”

The county transportation authority is considering a proposal for a new half-cent sales tax that would be in effect for 40 years and extending the current half-cent tax until 2057. The current tax is scheduled to sunset in 2041.

According to county estimates the current tax combined with the proposed increase would raise up to $120 billion.

The authority board is considering putting the question to voters on the 2016 fall ballot. A final decision is expected by the end of this year.

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