By Hillel Aron
:Measure J Transit Tax -- Too Soon?
Update: Los Angeles County voters rejected Measure J, which needed 66.7% to pass, by two percentage points, 64.72 to 35.28. See next page for more.
Things are not looking good for Measure J. With 33% of precincts reporting, the proposal is about two points shy of the 66.67% it needs to pass, according to the Registrar's website.
Its proponents better hope that the votes already counted come from outlying areas and not the city of LA, which stands to benefit the most from light rail construction. If passed, Measure J would accelerate the construction of a number of transit projects funded by Measure R, the 30-year, half-percent sales tax passed by LA County voters in 2008.
An internal poll obtained by LA Weekly showed the tax extension clinging to a 68% lead.
Update: Well, internal polls are often wrong, and Measure J is dead.
Deep-pocketed proponents organized by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and rail advocate Denny Zane spent a small fortune trying to convince voters to tax not only themselves, but future generations not yet born, until the year 2069.
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That may have been the proposal's undoing -- but a hearty band of bus riding activists also persistently attacked the proponents' idea of extending a current sales tax hike, just approved in 2008 and known as Measure R, by another 30 years.
The Bus Riders Union pointed out repeatedly that the lion's share of the existing Los Angeles County sales tax hike was being spent by Metro on costly light rail and subway projects, while the vast majority of working residents countywide who use transit use the bus.
Metro has spent only about 20 percent of Measure R money improving bus service.
Measure J may also have been hurt by LA-centric Metro spending 35 percent of its billions in Measure R taxes collected so far on Los Angeles. Bustling, dense San Gabriel Valley has received only 5 percent of the tax hike revenue paid by all consumers in Los Angeles County.