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Proposal to tax billboards, supergraphics heads to L.A. City Council committee for a vote

October 17, 2010 | 12:21 pm

A plan to ask voters to impose a new tax on outdoor advertisements heads to a committee of the Los Angeles City Council this week.

The council’s Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Monday to review a plan to seek a 12% excise tax on billboards and supergraphics, which are vinyl images stretched across the sides of buildings.

City officials said they have modeled the ballot proposal on a tax approved in 2005 in Philadelphia, which has already survived a court challenge. The council must decide by Nov. 3 whether to ask City Atty. Carmen Trutanich to draft ballot language for the March 8 municipal election.

The proposed tax comes as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and council members are bracing for a budget shortfall of nearly $320 million next year. If approved, the billboard tax would generate $24 million annually for the city’s general fund, which pays for basic services such as public safety, parks and libraries.

After reviewing business tax records, advisers to the council have concluded that sign companies have collected $227 million annually from billboard and supergraphic advertising over the last two years.

-- David Zahniser