Sales Tax Increase Measure OK'd by L.A. City Council for March Ballot

The Los Angeles City Council voted today to place a half-cent sales tax increase on the March municipal ballot, despite mounting opposition from the business community, organized labor, and mayoral candidates.

City Council President Herb Wesson proposed the tax, which is projected to raise up to $215 million during the 2013-14 fiscal year, saying it would help prevent cuts to public safety, including the layoffs of police officers.

The city is facing a $216 million deficit for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

City Council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, who are running for mayor, said the tax would make Los Angeles less business friendly.

"I think if we put an emphasis on jobs and growing the industries here, that's the revenue that we need, not squeezing every last bit out of people that are just struggling to get by," Garcetti said. "I'm sick of just cutting and taxing. It is a race to the bottom, and if we don't get serious about growing our economy, we won't have the sort of city we deserve in future years."

Councilmen Dennis Zine and Mitch Englander also voted to oppose the tax increase. Zine said the city could increase collections from delinquent taxpayers and improve other revenue collections to close the deficit and prevent layoffs of police officers.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said any future budget cuts are likely to hit his department and lead to more crime. Beck said $50 million in budget cuts to the police department would lead to the layoffs of 500 police officers, and said he would vote for the tax increase.

The decision now lies with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who can approve placing the tax increase on the ballot, veto it, or abstain, the later which would also place the tax proposal before voters.

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