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Measure J, L.A. County transportation tax extension, fails

November 7, 2012 |  8:00 am

Measure J, the proposed 30-year extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax in Los Angeles County, failed to receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass during Tuesday's election, falling short by about 2 percentage points.

With 100% of precincts reporting, support for Measure J reached 64.72% while those opposed tallied 35.28%, according to the county's registrar-recorder.

"I think this clearly for us was about trying to show from the community that we were not going to give a vote of confidence to (the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and obviously MTA could not pass the [two-thirds] threshold," said Sunyoung Yang of the Bus Riders Union, a group that strongly opposed Measure J.

VIDEO: L.A. voters discuss 2012 election

"We're very happy about it," Yang said. "We had pretty much a grass-roots guerrilla campaign where we had to compete to get into the media and on the radio waves. ... We had to generate a lot of events and media, as well as phone banking."

While the Yes on Measure J effort raised millions in campaign contributions, the groups opposing it raised only a fraction of that.

Four years ago, county voters narrowly approved Measure R by a two-thirds majority, the original half-cent sales tax for transportation efforts that is projected to generate between $36 and $40 billion over 30 years.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Measure J would have extended that tax another 30 years, until 2069, and advocates said it would have allowed transportation officials to accelerate several transit projects by borrowing against future tax revenues.

Advocates also said Measure J would have helped stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the near future.

But opponents, including Yang's bus union, said transportation officials would be accelerating those transit projects at the expense of many bus riders, who make up a much larger overall share of the system's users.

Before all the votes had been counted, Metro board member and Measure J supporter Richard Katz said Tuesday that lower voter turnout compared with 2008 could have hurt the effort.

"I'm sure the turnout this year will be less. If we fall short, turnout will have a lot to do with it," Katz said, who added that it was still remarkable that nearly 65% of voters in L.A. County supported the vision of Measure J, even if it didn't quite muster enough to pass.


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Photo:  Carla Gonzalez of Boyle Heights chants during a rally on the corner of Western and Wilshire in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning after the defeat Measure J. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times