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L.A. councilman calls for advertising tax to help slumping city budget

A Los Angeles city councilman is calling for a new citywide tax on billboards, digital signs and supergraphic advertisements, saying the proceeds could provide a major solution to the city's budget woes.

Councilman Herb Wesson sent a letter Thursday to Councilman Bernard C. Parks, head of the council's budget and finance committee, saying that an advertising excise tax could generate as much as $50 million a year for the city if it were passed in November by the city's voters.

The proposal was one of several offered by Wesson in a letter arguing the council should do everything it can to minimize the number of layoffs and furloughs planned for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The council is weighing a plan from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that would eliminate as many as 761 employees and impose up to 26 furlough days for certain workers.

As part of his push to scale back those cuts, Wesson also called for the council to boost ambulance fees, offer early retirement to 100 more city workers and secure another $20 million from the Department of Water and Power, which voted earlier this week to provide $73 million to the city's struggling budget. The DWP plans to increase electric rates July 1.

Wesson said the city should wring new concessions from city workers and impose financial penalties on banks that do not maintain foreclosed properties.

"Throughout the budget, there is a need to be more creative in identifying additional revenue sources that will shore up the city's finances, as well as gain voter approval," wrote Wesson, who represents portions of Koreatown and South Los Angeles.

Parks' chief of staff, Bernard Parks Jr., said the councilman had received Wesson's proposal and, based on a preliminary review, concluded it bore a strong resemblance to a budget plan offered last month by the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents 22,000 city employees.

Much of the union proposal has been "discredited" by the city's top budget analyst, Parks Jr. said.

"He just basically said that the numbers were off," he added.

Nevertheless, Wesson's proposal could shift the budget debate on the 15-member council, which is already divided into two camps, with several council members floating in between.

Council members Parks, Greig Smith and Jan Perry have been the most vocal about their support for deep cuts to the workforce. Council members Richard Alarcon, Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn have argued forcefully against them.

Two of the council's more hawkish members, Perry and Councilman Dennis Zine, were added to the budget committee in recent weeks by Council President Eric Garcetti. That move was viewed by some labor activists as an effort to realign the budget committee so that it has more members favorable to cuts.

-- David Zahniser

Photo: L.A. Time file

Comments () | Archives (65)

They just can't come to grip with the fact that the city staff is too large, including their own council staffs and its time to cut cut cut. I know its hard, I've been laid off and I know how it feels. The taxpayers can't afford the taxes and fees that these so called leaders want to raise. Put a tax on billboards, etc., there will be less advertising, don't you get it Herb. Problem is, you're still in the pockets of labor. Time to declare bankruptcy, invalidate the labor contracts and start over with reasonable pay, pension and benefits. Also, cut the calligraphers, thats the last thing the city needs.

This is a terrible idea. If we have learned one thing from recent governance it is that once an policy becomes a source of revenue, growing those revenues becomes the be-all and end-all. If this passes, we can all expect a forest of billboards to invade our city.

Cut spending would be a better idea.

Fix the problem. Do not bandage it. Pensions are the issue. Nothing less. Every year we put bandages on the real issue.

Actually nevermind. Keep doing what you're doing. We're on the road to bankruptcy and that will be the best thing for both the state and Los Angeles. Then we can get rid of the pensions, pennies on the dollar.

Keep up your good work.

Oh, if you keep on looking for tax revenue. The people and business you tax will leave. It's a simple formula.

Tax businesses
Businesses leave
People don't have jobs
Businesses do not come back because people don't have money to spend

Is that hard to understand?

Another lame attempt. Why don't you people do the right thing and get rid of Villaraigosa and his cronies.

Advertisers are ALREADY paying taxes on these billboards in the form of the HIGH CORPORATE TAXES levied on the California businesses that sell the ad space and maintain the billboards. Instead of hitting advertisers up for another round of "protection money" maybe the city should look at cutting some of its own costs. Starting with their bloated pensions and benefits programs. THAT is what has caused the budget shortfall.

How about ditching the 841 pensions over $100K? That's a minimum of $84 million saved.

Why don't they tax us to wake up in the morning?

Why don't we ever see a proposal that starts like this:
15-20% reduction in salaries for the Mayor and his staff.
15-20% reduction in salaries for the City Council and their staff.
No expensing for any city employees.
Heavy fines for city/DWP employees that are drinking on the job!
Heavy fines for city/DWP employees that are at strip clubs while on the clock!
Jail time for all those involved with the money laundering going on with the DWP and the City Council.

cut the budget from the top down...salaries, benefits, insurance, cars, gas allowance...and get the unions out of the jobs...they have pensions that are unsestainable now and in the future....let them do like the rest of the working people ... make investments and live with the children who can help them like they were helped in the beginning...too many entitlement programs...

Once again, our local politician’s only solution to THEIR irresponsibility is to stick it to the fading Private Sector to fork even more money out to cover their mismanagement of our taxes. Everyone is having to live with less income except union employees. The way things are going LA and California politicians are going to completely tax Californian businesses out of existence. What little profits we make are being confiscated by MOB like politicians. The only reason why I’m still here is that I cannot sell my house since it is worth half of what I bought it for. It is now coming to a point where my business profits are becoming nonexistent. If I get hit with another tax increase I’m literally going to have to walk away from my home.

Thank you California

The city needs to cut spending. Not add taxes.

I can't believe we're not already taxing them. Billboards are a visual blight upon our city.

Please include political lawn signs in the proposal.

What will these clowns think of next? Pretty soon, they'll be taxing the air.

Revenues are down so expenses must be cut. Not a difficult relationship. Priviate business seems to be able to figure it out. Too bad our bloated, spend-happy government officials can't.

Productivity levels in private industry have skyrocketed because 1) companies have eliminated a lot of dead weight and 2) remaining employees are working harder/smarter so they're not next on the chopping block. I'm guessing there's not that sense of urgency in government. You could easily put a one in front of Villaraigosa's number to get rid of even more dead weight.

TAX, TAX, TAX,.....thats all these knuckleheads can come up with!!! Does this Bozo Herb understand that the cost increase (tax) to advertise will just be passed on to the consumer in higher prices for goods. Herb needs to find a way to stop the wasteful spending in this state....not increase the cost for companies to do business here! We've already lost Nissan, Marie Calender and other companies that found it cheaper to relocate their companies to different states to do their business. HERB....STOP SPENDING!! That is the only solution! Why don't you politicians understand that...its not rocket science! The people in this state...those of us who actually pay taxes are already taxed to the hilt! STOP SPENDING..the solution is really that simple.

I call for a 10% salary decrease to all councilman/councilwoman from every city in california. That will help bring down city budget woes. Back at you councilman maybe this will let you see how much it hurts.

these people still don't get it! are they stupid? Cut expenses like everyone else or go find a real job.

Instead of boosting ambulance fees, how about getting the government out of the ambulance business. Contract it out like so many other cities and counties across the state.

Fire Departments and public health service ambulances were an invention of public employee unions. They viewed this take over as a way to grow dues. It is time for Los Angeles to shrink the size of government and opening ambulance service to private operators is a great place to start.

There should be a levy on all forms of advertising.

Tax, tax, tax in a recession. More government mismanagement. Maybe they'll drive billboards to extinction. Seems like a huge waste of money to advertise on billboards anyway.

It's about time. Billboards are out of control in L.A. its a worse blight than graffiti, becasue ads have no soul. theyre are pollution that destroy the natural beauty of los angeles. They are also commerce, billboard owners make big money at the expense of our community. They need to be regulated and taxed. Super illuminated 24 hour billboards should not be allowed in residential neighborhoods where people are trying to sleep. At very least they should have restricted hours. They should not allow video billboards near dangerous intersections - LA drivers are distracted enough. They shoud not allow 500 foot tall ads for booze. etc etc etc. PLEASE at very least tax them.

i have a question..(lets play along with this)..."why is the coffer empty?"

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