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Pro-transit tax backers give big to Measure J sales tax extension

Measure J, the extension of Los Angeles County's half-cent sales tax for transportation on next month's ballot, has netted close to $2 million in contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals, finance documents show.

Over three weeks ending Oct. 20, Yes on Measure J collected $1.95 million in large donations from organizations including Anschutz Entertainment Group, the L.A. Dodgers and the Museum Associates, a nonprofit operating the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, records show.

Pro-transit tax backers have given $2.12 million since the campaign began, nearly meeting a target of $2.2 million that strategists estimated would be needed to reach voters with a TV advertising blitz as the election draws near.

Museum Associates gave $500,000, the L.A. Dodgers and philanthropist Eli Broad each gave $250,000 and AEG, an entertainment group, contributed $200,000. Other big contributors, at $100,000 each, include NBC Universal, Occidental Petroleum and Unite Here, a labor union.

Museum Associates would benefit from a planned subway station at its Wilshire Boulevard location. AEG, which runs the Staples Center and LA Live, already has a Metro stop but could potentially benefit from a subway extension bringing Angelenos downtown from the Westside.

Matt Szabo, executive director of the Yes on Measure J campaign, called the big donors part of a "broad coalition from business and labor and those who love Los Angeles."

“This is an initiative that will benefit all parts of Los Angeles County,'' he said. "And everyone will benefit if Measure J passes, so it makes sense that a broad cross-section of the community has come forward to support it.”

Measure J asks voters to extend a half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2008 for an additional 30 years, or until voters decide to end it. The money would be administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and would be used to accelerate the construction of a planned Westside subway extension and a downtown rail connection, supporters say.

Those projects would also bring much-needed jobs to the city,  they say. The measure needs a two-thirds voter approval for passage.

Opponents include the Bus Riders Union, Supervisors Michael D. Atonovich and Don Knabe and City Councilman Bernard C. Parks. Critics say Metro has focused too much on rail projects while not allocating enough money for the existing bus system.

Sunyoung Yang of the Bus Riders Union called Measure J a “big corporate handout” to entertainment venues and contractors.

“The people contributing will profit off of public dollars, and the people opposing it are from the grass roots," Yang said. “We are volunteers.”

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-- Catherine Saillant and Christine Mai-Duc

 

 
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