The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors made it official this week after voting to place Measure M on the November general election ballot. The decision was a largely administrative action that nonetheless offered an opportunity for backers and opponents to speak out.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted June 23 to put forth a ballot measure that would permanently add a half-cent county sales tax to fund a package of transportation improvements, including new rail and bus lines, highway improvements and street repairs.
The Metro board—which includes all five members of the Board of Supervisors—had the authority to ask voters to consider the measure on a special election ballot Nov. 8, but needed the county board to agree to consolidate the special election with the statewide general election ballot.
The board rarely refuses a request to consolidate various city, school board and other municipal elections and approved seven other such requests this week.
In this case, however, several MTA, city officials and labor leaders turned up to promote Measure M, saying it would help solve the region’s outsized traffic congestion problems and improve air quality while creating jobs.
Supervisor Hilda Solis also praised the measure.
“These are opportunities that we haven’t seen in maybe a lifetime,” Solis said. “This is our economic stimulus plan for L.A. County.”
However, Supervisor Don Knabe, who was one of two dissenters on the Metro board when the ordinance was considered, said he had concerns.
“This is an open checkbook … a forever tax,” Knabe said, though he said he’d leave it to voters to evaluate the measure.
When the existing half-cent transportation tax levied under Measure R expires on July 1, 2039, Measure M will bump up to one cent. There is no sunset date for the new measure.
Knabe agreed that lots of jobs would be created, but questioned what cities would get the benefits of those jobs and objected to the idea that some new Measure M projects might jump ahead of projects previously approved for Measure R funding.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he was fine with reordering priorities, because he believed the Measure M project list was driven by bottom-up input from a broad set of stakeholders, while some of the projects already on the drawing board received special treatment to move forward.
Measure R was seen by some opponents as neglecting the San Fernando Valley and the northern end of Los Angeles County, while Knabe and Lakewood Councilwoman and Metro board member Diane DuBois view Measure M as too heavily tilted away from the southern municipalities they represent.
The measure, if passed by two-thirds of voters, is expected to generate $120 billion over the first 40 years.