The issue of whether or not Measure R+, our temporary name for a proposed ballot initiative to extend the 2008 transportation sales tax, will be on the fall ballot will be much clearer in a couple of days. The Metro Board of Directors will vote on whether or not to place the initative on the fall ballot this Thursday. The initiative still needs the approval of the State Senate and the Governor’s office, but if the measure passes muster on Thursday, it will most likely go before the voters.
Whether the voters will pass it is another story. As in 2008, extending the sales tax would require a two-thirds vote of those voting. The 2008 ballot measure passed with 67.2%.
In other words, it barely passed.
While the coalition that worked to pass Measure R in 2008 is coming back together under the stewardship of Move L.A., the opposition to the transit tax extension already appears stronger than last time. The campaign for Measure R+ could have a tougher road to travel. The plan calls for no new projects, just a “speeded up” project schedule. In other words, if it matters to you whether the airport connector is completed in 2023 instead of 2028, then you’ll likely support the project. If you wanted a Leimert Park Station for the Crenshaw Line, there’s nothing in this proposal for you.
Leading the opposition is Supervisor, and soon-to-be Metro Board Chair, Mike Antonovich. The Supervisor famously compared the plan to “gang rape” of his constituents despite his Supervisor District receiving the lion’s share of the highway funding portion of the sales tax. Antonovich voted against placing the initiative on the ballot in Committee.
Noting that rail transit generally requires a higher subsidy than bus transit, thus causing an overall increase in transit fares, the Bus Riders Union led the charge against Measure R four years ago. The civil rights group seems poised to repeat that role this time around.
“The original Measure R has offered nothing good to transit-dependent Black and Latino bus riders, who have seen close to one million hours of bus service cut and a 20% fare increase since it took effect in 2009,” explains Barbara Lott Holland, Chair of Bus Riders Union. “Extending Measure R indefinitely will only accelerate the destruction of the bus system and the civil rights crisis that LA Metro now finds itself in, and will plummet the agency into a debt that the poor will be asked for pay through more fare increases and even deeper cuts to their service for decades into the future.”
The Los Angeles Times puts voice to a fiscal argument that extending a sales tax indefinitely out into the future doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense long-term. What if the transit needs of the county change in the next fifty years, and voters are paying a tax for a completed transit system with no revenue going towards future expansion? Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa argues that these future voters will have the benefit of a completed transit system, but that argument could be a harder sell than the argument for any transit expansion made four years ago.
Another group that opposed the 2008 tax was a loose coalition of legislators and municipal governments in the San Gabriel Valley. These lawmakers gave perhaps the least articulate opposition demanding funds for a local project that was funded by Measure R at the same time they opposed the overall Measure. Getting more funds for the Alameda Corridor continues to be their top priority, and there is little opportunity to close the $260 million funding gap in Measure R+. Read more…