When the government tries to create jobs, taxpayers beware. Government-created jobs are always more expensive, paid for with special taxes and bonds, and often for projects that are unnecessary, overblown, and could have been done by the private sector.
However, we do not usually see governments impose taxes 60 years in advance to pay for for jobs today.Â AB 1446Â by Assemblyman Mike Feurer, D- Los Angeles, will do just that.
AB 1446Â will allow the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extendÂ Measure R, a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008 that is in effect until 2039, and to raise billions of dollars in the coming years for construction of the Los Angeles subway light rail extension.
Voters and taxpayers are being conditioned to approve theÂ supersizingÂ of our financial obligations â€“ itâ€™s like taking a 30 year mortgage and stretching it to 50 or 60 years.
AB 1446Â will allow Los Angeles to vote again on Measure R+, toÂ extend the 2008 transportation sales tax for an additional 30 years, which supporters claim will accelerate the construction of regional traffic highway and transit projects and provide needed jobs.Â If approved, Los Angeles residents will be paying the tax until 2069.
Many are saying that this particular rendition of a tax extension is not in the best interest of the community.
30/10 plan will be 60/10 plan
â€śThe original Measure R was part ofÂ the mayorâ€™s ambitious planÂ to extend various subway lines throughout transit-challenged Los Angeles,â€ťLA WeeklyÂ reported. â€śHe called it the â€ś30/10â€ł plan, because â€” on the promise of 30 yearsâ€™ worth of Measure R revenue â€” he could borrow the money from the federal government, and build in one decade what would normally take three.â€ť
â€śThen thereâ€™s the question, locally, of whether a few more stops on the Metro rail system are really worth the billionsÂ weâ€™ll be pumping into them.,â€ť LA Weekly asked.
â€śWhat about the beleaguered bus system â€” the only current public transit option that can deliver a low-income worker from one end of sprawling L.A. County to the other? And what about the pockmarked roads and highways of L.A., whose cracks and potholes total lowriders and spill hot coffee on our collective lap daily?â€ť
â€śThe original Measure R was a well-documented, well thought out piece of legislation that gave very specific details regarding projects, timelines and funding for the cityâ€™s transportation expansion plan,â€ť Bernard Parks recentlyÂ wroteÂ in City Watch.
â€śThis new extension, known as Measure R+, goes contrary to the original plan by not giving a specific timeline for the projects.Â No new transportation projects are being added, the extra tax is simply to accelerate the speed of the current projects. To tax people until the year 2069 merely to speed up projects that have already been approved and funded is not in the communityâ€™s best interest,â€ť Parks explained.
â€śThisÂ billÂ allows MTA to impose a transactions and use tax withÂ no limit as to the durationÂ of the tax,â€ť billÂ analysisÂ reads. â€śThe Committee may wish to ask the author first whyÂ the existing 30-year authority granted in 2008 throughÂ legislation and approved by voters is not enough, and second,Â why, four years later, an extension is needed but no limit isÂ specified. When does the author anticipate putting such aÂ ballot measure forward for voters to decide whether toÂ permanently extend this transactions and use tax?â€ť the first billÂ analysisÂ asked.
â€śAccording to the author, this bill is intended to give LosÂ Angeles County voters the opportunity to extend the duration ofÂ a local source of funding for an ambitious program ofÂ transportation infrastructure projects that will transform theÂ Los Angeles region. The anticipated new revenue can be bondedÂ against to build projects in MTAâ€™s transportation plan sooner.â€ť
Voice of reason
â€śI donâ€™t know why there was bipartisan support on this bill,â€ť Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point said. â€śThe current MTA tax runs to 2039 and cannot be repealed by voters. This bill will extend another 30 years to 2069. The people will be paying more taxes, and not able to repeal until 2069, to the County of Los Angeles. Why?â€ť Harkey asked.
â€śThe jobs quoted are a drop in the bucket. Something else is going on,â€ť Harkey said. â€śLos Angeles is one of the biggest problems in the state, once it starts spiraling down. Why do we have to tax years from now to get jobs now?â€ť Harkey asked. â€śDebt is not going to help LAâ€“tell LA to get its house in order.â€ť
The bill analysis gave the background on Los Angeles Measure R: â€śWhen Measure R was adopted, MTA estimated that the 30-yearÂ program was about $40 billion. Because of the recessionÂ and general economic malaise, MTA is now estimating thatÂ Measure R will generate about $36 billion by 2038. WhenÂ Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed toÂ accelerate the construction of all 12 rail transit projectsÂ so that they would be completed in 10 years and not theÂ usual 30 years, MTA began a search for additional revenueÂ or funding mechanisms. This bill endeavors to solve theÂ problem of insufficient revenue by removing the sunset onÂ Measure R. Should the voters approve a new sales taxÂ without a sunset, MTA may be able to issue additional debtÂ and take advantage of the federal credit assistance programÂ included in The Transportation Infrastructure Finance andÂ Innovation Act.â€ť
Size and scope of project
â€śWhile the vision that is driving the current effort to make the Measure R sales tax permanent is well-intentioned, it is disingenuous to the voters to give a blank check to the MTA,â€ť L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe said in a statement. â€śThe sales tax currently does not expire until 2039, so there is no reason to extend it unless we want to spend the next generationâ€™s money today.â€ť
â€śIf it passes, officials plan to borrow against future revenues to help expedite the transit projects funded by Measure R, including the Westside Subway Extension, so workers can break ground on the efforts in five years instead of 20,â€ť the LA TimesÂ reported.Â â€ťThey would also need billions of dollars in federal loans to make that happen.â€ť
Another snafu apparently is thatÂ Beverly Hills residents would need to approve putting subway tunnels under Beverly Hills High School.
â€śBy continuing Measure R, we will be creating jobs, relieving highway congestion, and completing light rail and subway projects in one decade instead of three,â€ť Peter Sanders, spokesman for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, told theÂ Los Angeles Times.
But the jobs that Villaraigosa says will be created are just more union-wage jobs at the MTA, through big union contracts, with no proof that traffic congestion will really be alleviated, and no road repairs made. Voters, be very wary.
(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted onÂ CalWatchdog.)