Some surprising numbers from the LAT/USC survey that show 53 percent of likely voters will definitely or probably cast their ballots for Measure A, which pushes the city's sales tax rate to 9.5 percent from 9 percent. About 41 percent oppose the measure and 6 percent are undecided. Earlier surveys had the tax measure lagging badly, but an unlikely coalition of unions, billboard companies, and real estate interests have bankrolled an ad campaign that warns of reduced public safety dollars if the proposal is defeated. The extra tax revenues would help pare down the city's $200-million+ deficit that's partly the result of escalating pension and health care costs involving those same unions who are contributing to the cause. Typically, it's hard to get a tax hike approved in an off-year election when turnout is small and dominated by older, conservative voters. But opponents have no money to mount a campaign, and while all the mayoral candidates are against Measure A they haven't gone out of their way to broadcast their positions. In support are Mayor Villaraigosa, Council President Herb Wesson (the ringleader behind Measure A) and the city's budget head, Miguel Santana, who says that without the extra tax dollars L.A. might be forced to cut back on cops. From the LAT:
The poll indicates that the Proposition A language that city officials put on voters' ballots could end up pushing it to victory, said Chris St. Hilaire, chief executive of M4 Strategies, which helped conduct the poll. The ballot title calls it the "neighborhood public safety and vital city services funding and accountability measure" and says it would help maintain 911 emergency and other services. Retired nurse Annette Koppel, 80, voted by mail for the sales tax increase, but only reluctantly. Although she is living on a fixed income, Koppel -- a victim of a carjacking in the late 1980s -- said she worries about a decrease in the number of police, firefighters and paramedics. "Without them, what are we going to do?" she asked.
As I've said before, this is bad public policy - just an escape hatch for the council and its years of idiotic, self-serving budget decisions that got us into this mess (and which were signed off by several candidates running for mayor). But without more money the city could be stuck reducing its services even more, and that's not a great alternative.