Villaraigosa declines to back any of three competing tax initiatives
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday declined to back any of the three income tax initiatives competing for space on the November ballot, saying that efforts to raise taxes on top earners lead to too much volatility in state revenue and compound California's budget problems.
"I know that polls well, but we already have too many swings with the personal income tax," Villaraigosa said in an interview at The Times' Sacramento bureau.
The mayor said he still may end up supporting one or more of the proposals should they qualify for the ballot. "We may need to do this, but this isn't the way to fix it," he said of California's perennial budget distress.
The answer, he proposed during his day trip to the state Capitol, is to firmly grab the so-called third rail of California politics: Proposition 13. He would amend the property tax limitation measure to allow assessments to rise faster on commercial property, extend the sales tax to services such as accountants and lawyers, and cut the state income tax.
It's unlikely anything close to what the mayor calls a "grand bargain" can pass in Sacramento any time soon. Instead, Gov. Jerry Brown is battling furiously to persuade voters to patch the budget hole by passing a five-year half-cent sales tax hike that would be coupled to increased income taxes on higher earners.
But two other groups also want to place tax hikes on the November budget, and the governor fears that if all three qualify, overwhelmed voters will reject all of them. Villaraigosa declined to weigh in on the controversy and noted that, even if the governor's tax passes, school districts like Los Angeles Unified School District would still have to cut tens of millions from their budgets.
"I don't believe we can fix what's broken with any of these measures," Villaraigosa said.
[For the record, 5:22 p.m. March 12: An earlier headline on this post said that the initiatives were already on the ballot.]
-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento
Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who pointedly declined to endorse any of several competing tax proposals Monday, addresses the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago last year. Photo Credit: Tannen Maury/EPA