Wesson unilaterally dumps parking lot tax idea

parkinglot.jpgNow this is interesting - City Council President Herb Wesson has taken it upon himself to remove a proposed tax increase on parking lot operators that would have been on next March's ballot. The increase, from 10 percent to 15 percent, would have generated an extra $40 million or so per year - not insubstantial considering the deficit hole that the city faces. But after lobbying by parking lot operators, who implausibly argued that their customers would balk at paying a little more and instead drive to lots in nearby cities (you mean I'd park my car in Beverly Hills and walk to a restaurant in L.A.?), Wesson put the proposal into a file folder. From the LAT:

Edward Johnson, a Wesson spokesman, said the councilman didn't think the parking tax increase would be approved by voters. Johnson said the measure would have needed a two-thirds vote to pass. But Santana, in his report to the committee, had recommended that the parking hike be placed as a general tax, which needs 50% plus one voter approval. "He didn't think it would be viable at the ballot box,'' Johnson said.

How conveniently vague - and not at all persuasive considering that the measure would only require a majority vote (not to mention the fact that the city is in a financial crisis that requires any and all ideas for added revenues). It's worth noting that the parking lot operators already have a poor record when it comes to paying taxes at their current level, resulting in millions of lost dollars. Seems that the parking lot people don't have much to say about that. From the Daily News last August:

[Controller Wendy] Greuel estimated the parking tax brings in more than $85 million a year from the 1,900 lots permitted to operate in the city. But, she said, there are other lots that charge motorists for the tax but do not turn the money over to the city, and the city Office of Finance has failed to identify and collect those taxes. "My audit reveals that the Office of Finance lacks a complete inventory of parking lots in the city, creating uncertainty about whether the city is actually receiving all of the Parking Occupancy Tax it is owed," Greuel said.

It would be nice for Wesson to come up with a better explanation for his actions - or perhaps the parking lot operators can explain why he decided to do what he did.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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