L.A. City Council Wary Of Library Tax

Since the L.A. City Council balanced the budget by taking an ax to the Library Department, supporters have been pushing for a new tax that would keep branches open six days a week.

But at a hearing today, the council seemed extremely reluctant to ask the voters to approve a proposed $39 annual parcel tax.

The proposal would generate as much as $30 million per year. The Library Foundation of L.A. paid for a poll showing that 68% of

voters support the idea.

That sounds like a lot, but since the measure would need a 2/3 majority to pass, it doesn't leave much room for error. Given the economic climate, it seems an especially bad moment to be asking for a new tax.

But there's also a more basic problem. It would cost the city $4.2 million to put the measure on the November ballot. And the city is out of money.

There is another option. If the city waited until the March 2011 council election, it wouldn't cost anything. But the problem there is that the turnout will be very low, and political consultants don't think they can get a 2/3 majority.

The council did vote 9-1, with Councilman Dennis Zine dissenting, to draft the ballot language for the parcel tax. But it seems unlikely that the council will vote in two weeks to put the measure on the ballot.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Councilwoman Janice Hahn, two of the more liberal council members, both sounded skeptical about the effort. Council President Eric Garcetti would promise only that if revenues increase, the libraries will be first in line for a restoration of funding.

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