SAN FRANCISCO - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday placed the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's $40 billion sales tax measure on the November ballot.
The board - which last week refused to approve the measure for the election - reversed course after finding out it would cost $10 million to print separate ballots for the 30-year, half-cent sales tax. The board continues to oppose the tax because some lawmakers say their districts wouldn't get enough funding.
The MTA is governed by its own board, which approved the sales tax measure last month. The county board could not prevent the authority from creating a separate ballot; it could only keep it off the county's consolidated ballot.
"Although I am against the sales tax plan, I cannot in good conscience burden county residents with over $10 million in higher election costs," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who changed his vote to allow the measure onto the main ballot. "I remain absolutely opposed to the MTA sales tax measure and I plan to spend my time and effort campaigning against it."
The sales tax still requires state lawmakers' approval because the measure would push the local tax rate above California tax limits. The enabling legislation is pending in the state Senate Appropriations Committee, caught in a tangle of both local competition for projects and the state's ongoing budget impasse. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed not to sign any bills until state lawmakers agree on budget, including a plan to close California's $15.2 billion budget gap. If the Legislature fails to act before adjourning Aug. 31, the sales tax measure would still go on the ballot, but wouldn't be valid.
The measure would raise $30 billion to $40 billion to fund construction of new subways, light-rail lines, freeway interchanges, bus lanes, and local transportation projects in the nation's most populous - and most famously congested - county. Metro has not yet said what portion of the money would back bonds versus pay-as-you-go projects.
Area voters will decide billions of dollars worth of bond measures this fall. The Los Angeles Unified School District is asking for a $7 billion general obligation authorization, and the Los Angeles Community College District is requesting $3.5 billion.
The Board of Supervisors yesterday also added the following measures - which have been approved by cities and school districts - to the consolidated ballot for November:
* $1.2 billion for the Long Beach Unified School District,
* $571 million for local infrastructure in the city of Long Beach,
* $355 million in two separate measures for the Torrance Unified School District,
* $353 million for the Mt. San Antonio Community College District,
* $300 million fore the William S. Hart Union High School District, and
* $235 million for the Pomona Unified School District.