Local Items for November 2016 - LA County & Culver City Measures

There are a few local matters that are on the ballot (aside from the 17 statewide measures). So let’s put on our policy hats and compare methods of taxation. Which of the following taxes sound “fair” (recognizing that fair is often in the eyes of the taxed)?

A parcel tax of $0.015 per square foot of property (Measure A).
A sales tax of $0.005 per dollar (Measure M).
A parcel tax of $99/year on single family residents, $69/year on each unit of a multi-family dwelling, and $1096/year per acre of non-residential land (Measure CW).

Voters in LA County will decide on the first two items and Culver City residents will vote on the third.

First, one must decide whether these taxes increases are for a good cause. Measure A is for parks in LA County. Measure M is for transportation infrastructure in LA County. Measure CW is for clean water in Culver City. In my book, these are all necessary and proper functions of government.

Second, one must look at details like implementation. If I understand correctly, the rate of property tax is fixed in California; thus, if a tax is to be based on property, they have to be some version of a parcel tax as seen in Measure A and CW. https://ballotpedia.org/Parcel_tax

The LA Daily News objects to Measure A on tax fairness grounds and that there is no sunset provision. http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20161021/vote-no-on-measure-a-la-county-should-try-again-on-parks-funding-endorsement One of the complaints about parcel taxes is that they are unfair. In this case, a 3000 sq. ft. home in a rural part of LA County that might fetch $200,000 in the open market would be charged the same parcel tax amount as a 3000 sq. ft. home in an upscale part of LA County that might garner $2 million. Thus, the fairness argument has some validity. However, in California, the only way to raise money for specific needs through property owners is through the parcel tax. Thus, unfortunately, the tax fairness complaint is sort of moot. I suppose a sales tax would be more fair (as in Measure M) but that is usually reserved for raising huge amounts of tax revenue - nearly $900 million in the case of Measure M. In any case, Measure A raises nearly $100 million annually. I’ll be voting yes on measure A.

The LA Daily News also objects to Measure M for not including a sunset provision. http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20161025/vote-no-on-measure-m-la-countys-permanent-transit-tax-endorsement The no sunset provision isn’t too bothersome to me in that transportation infrastructure is going to be an ongoing issue so a dedicated funding source may well be needed. However, it is bothersome that the initial Measure R did have a sunset (2039) and they are backing away from that and this new measure is going to raise taxes on top of the existing Measure R. Because our transportation infrastructure is such a mess, I’ll be voting yes on measure M but with the awareness the political powers that be have not be fully upfront about the costs and/or are seriously over-running their previously planned budgets.

Measure CW is highly local and no major newspaper is covering the story. The city government’s rationale for the measure is described here. No official objection was filed for inclusion in the ballot booklet. http://www.culvercity.org/city-hall/information/election-information/ballot-measure-information/clean-culver-city The problem of storm water run-off and other clean water issues have been around a long time. With this parcel tax, about $2 million will be raised annually. We just got to bite the bullet and do something about it. I’ll be voting yes on measure CW.