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Transit tax may hurt Gov. Brown's Prop. 30, L.A. supervisor says

October 11, 2012 |  4:56 pm

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at a board meeting.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas warned Thursday that a Nov. 6 ballot proposal to extend a countywide transit tax could doom the $6-billion tax measure sought by Gov. Jerry Brown in the same election.

Ridley-Thomas told an audience that having Measure J, which would extend a sales tax for public transit by 30 years, on the same ballot as Proposition 30 will prompt voters to be wary and contribute to their belief that “the only thing we want to do is tax them.” If Brown’s measure fails, he added, counties already struggling with the “realignment” of the state’s incarceration system will face new budget cuts.

“You all know that I’m committed to the issue of public transportation,” Ridley-Thomas told the audience at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. “But before I talk about public transportation, I need to be concerned about public safety. I don’t like the prospect of more cuts at public safety, which will be what happens [with] Prop 30 not passing -- and it’s struggling.”

INTERACTIVE: 2012 California Propositions

Two weeks ago, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found support for Brown’s measure had slipped to 55%, down from 59% in May. Since then, Brown's measure has been the subject of negative television advertising bankrolled by two siblings in the wealthy Munger family -– civil rights advocate Molly Munger and her far more politically conservative brother Charles Munger.

Ridley-Thomas, whose district stretches from Carson to Culver City, was one of three board members at the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority who voted against putting Measure J on the ballot last summer. Although he did not explicitly identify himself as an opponent of Measure J, he characterized the proposal as "ill advised" and “not fully baked.”

“In an environment where ... people are asking, 'Why are we being hit by so many different tax proposals,' it is nothing more than a distraction,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas' statements were challenged by Measure J supporter Richard Katz, who serves on the 13-member Metro board as an appointee of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Katz said there would be “no correlation at all” between Measure J’s and Proposition 30’s prospects on election day.

“First of all, Jerry’s measure [appears] on the ballot before Measure J, so people will have voted on Jerry’s before they even get to Measure J,” Katz said. “Secondly Jerry’s plan is in trouble because both the left and the right ... are running ads against it.”

Measure J would extend the life of Measure R, which imposes a half-cent sales tax on each dollar spent in the county, from 2039 to 2069. Passage would speed up construction of a dozen transportation projects, getting them done in 13 years instead of 27, according to transportation officials.

Voters approved Measure R in 2008, passing it by more than two-thirds.


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Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during a board meeting in June. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles Times