Tuesday, November 06, 2012

In LA, Measure J seeks more transit funds

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At least 19 measures involving rail and public transit are on the ballot Tuesday across the U.S., with Los Angeles County potentially the biggest player involved. Voters in America's second-largest city and surrounding munciipalities will decide whether to extend a half-cent sales tax (the existing Measure R, approved in 2008) by 30 years.

Approval of the extension would fortify the city's aggressive role in advancing public transit, including extensive light rail transit expansion and subway construction in addition to bus improvements and even streetcar proposals.

The sales tax increase at present is set to last until 2039, and is projected to raise $40 billion in that time period. Approval of the ballot proposal would extend the tax until 2069. Approval is required by two-thirds of those voting.

The Measure J extension would enable Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) to continue collecting funds to "bond against" future revenue from the Measure R tax. LACMTA could estimate the anticipated amount of revenue, sell that amount in bonds to receive the revenue quickly, and then pay back bond holders when the money from the sales tax is collected. The approach has been championed aggressively by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Opponents of the measure are being led by the Coalition to Defeat Measure J', which includes the Bus Riders Union, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the No 710 Action Committee, Congress of Racial Equality-CA, La Basta of East Los Angeles, and the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education. The Beverly Hills BOE bases it opposition on its objection to subway construction underneath Beverly Hills High School, citing safety concerns.