A measure on the March 5 ballot could help reduce Los Angeles's debt, but it would require anyone making a purchase in the city to foot the bill.
If passed, Proposition A would levy an additional half-cent sales tax on all goods and services purchased in the city, raising the rate to 9.5 percent and potentially netting Los Angeles $215 million.
Proponents of the measure say the tax hike is needed to address Los Angeles’s $216 million budget deficit and to pay for vital services such as 911 emergency response, paramedics, police, firefighters, after-school gang and drug prevention programs and street maintenance.
The city’s top budget official, Miguel Santana, earlier this month warned that cuts to these services would be unavoidable if Proposition A did not pass, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Others question the timing of the proposed tax increase. With the March 5 elections, new officials are coming into office and Proposition 30 — the half-cent increase in state sales tax to fund schools — just went into effect in January.
Several of the mayoral candidates in a forum last November opposed the tax increase, calling it unnecessary, The Daily News reported.
"I think we need to have an emphasis on growing our economy," L.A. councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti said. "We can't tax our way out of this."
His opponent, former controller Wendy Greuel, told The Los Angeles Times: "Before taking a sales tax to the voters, the Council needs to demonstrate that it has fixed the problems that exist and has explored all other options."
Mayoral candidate Kevin James also told the Times he opposes the tax hike. "It is bad for our local businesses, chases customers away, and hurts working class families," he said.
Candidate Jan Perry likewise opposes the tax increase, she told the Times. "I believe that the city should do all that it can to get its fiscal house in order before going to the taxpayers."
Emanuel Pleitez, also running for mayor, called the proposal a "regressive tax that hurts the poorest in our city the most."
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is supporting Proposition A, saying without the additional revenue, a minimum of 500 police officers who patrol neighborhoods will be laid off.
"Proposition A will help restore a severely understaffed fire department, help maintain police, and paramedic staffing levels and ensure fast and effective 911 response services to make sure residents receive quality emergency medical care and get to a hospital quickly," he said in a statement on SmartVoter.org, the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund website on candidates and ballot measures.
The L.A. County Federation of Labor, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, L.A. Fire Chief Brian Cummings and City Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Joe Buscaino are also among those supporting the ballot measure.
How will you vote on Proposition A March 5? Tell us in the comments.