Republicans Stop Feuer’s Efforts to Lower Sales Tax Threshold

Assemblyman_Mike_Feuer.jpg Assemblyman Mike Feuer finds himself back in the news this week.  All four of his legislative bills written to help L.A. County raise transit funds have cleared the Assembly and he was featured in a recent story aired nationally on National Public Radio.  However, when partisan politics becomes involved with policy, bad things can happen.

Feuer’s efforts to lower the needed threshold for voters to approve a half cent gas tax increase dedicated to transportation seem to have come to an end before they got a vote in the State Senate because Senate Republicans have threatened a party-line vote to defeat the procedure.  Current law requires the approval of two-thirds of all voters to approve a sales tax increase, Feuer’s legislation would have lowered the threshold to 55%.

From this week’s edition of City Beat:

What about the constitutional amendment to allow a half-cent sales tax measure to pass with 55 percent instead of two-thirds of the vote?

I decided not to put it to a vote yet in Sacramento because ACA 10 requires Republican votes to put this constitutional change to a statewide vote of the people, and they’ve made it clear to me that they don’t intend to allow Californians to make this change, at least not for now. 

This partisan posturing lowers the chance that the half cent dedication would pass a vote at November’s ballot box, a two-thirds vote seems daunting, but not impossible.  As Los Angeles’ traffic crisis worsens, more and more people could be willing to dedicate money as long as Metro can show there will be a benefit throughout the county and not just on high profile projects.

On NPR, Feuer seemed upbeat that his other proposals could lead to a change not just in the law but also in Metro’s bottom line:

For the first time in Los Angeles there is a real openness to thinking in new ways how we get from one place to another.  I think the time is right to give voter’s that kind of choice.

Only time will tell if he’s correct.

  • The Republicans in California figured out a long time ago how they play the game:

    (1) “I’m the anti-tax candidate. I will never, ever, vote to increase fees or taxes on you, dear voter, EVER.”

    (2) “This vital piece of legislation is critical to moving our state forward, I vote to fully fund it.”

    (3) “The democrats, with their tax and spend policies have caused this vital program to lose its funding. Waste, fraud and abuse, I tell you! ”

    (repeat)

  • ACA 10 lowers the thereshold for the issuance of transportation bonds. The likely 1/2% sales tax on the Nov. ballot for L.A. County would still need 2/3 to pass. I know this because an aide to the Assemblyman was at a recent SO.CA.TA meeting and clarified its effect.

    The sales tax passage depends on careful negotiating to split the benefit among enough stakeholders geographically to neutralize opposition and build alliances. It isn’t a done deal but there is hope.