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Measure J transportation tax is still too close to call

November 6, 2012 |  9:32 pm

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Los Angeles County voters appeared to be favoring a 30-year extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax, according to early returns Tuesday, but it's unclear whether the measure will receive the two-thirds majority necessary to pass.

County voters passed Measure R four years ago by a narrow margin, which added a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects for 30 years. The proposed extension, Measure J, would keep the tax in place for at least another three decades until 2069. The measure has been championed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Advocates say the extension would allow transportation officials to borrow money against future tax revenues and use it to accelerate several transit projects, including the long-anticipated Westside subway extension. Opponents say the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use that money to accelerate rail projects at the cost of bus riders, who make up a much larger portion of overall users across the transit system.

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

Denny Zane, executive director of the pro-Measure J group Move LA, said the early returns were similar to those in 2008 during the Measure R campaign.

"Any time you need two-thirds, it's a tight one through the night ... a small shift of votes can make a [big] difference," Zane said, adding that the early results were "certainly good enough to feel optimistic."

The early results consist of hundreds of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that were released by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder around 8:15 p.m.

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-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: Lisa Korbatov of Beverly Hills and Rosa Miranda of the Bus Riders Union hold blank checks highlighting Measure J’s corporate sponsors and beneficiaries during a news conference in October. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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