A proposed half-cent sales tax billed by supporters as critical for funding public safety and other Los Angeles city services appeared to be heading for a narrow defeat.
The proposition needed 50 percent of the vote to pass in Tuesday's election, but with 100 percent of precincts reporting, it had received only about 45 percent of the vote.
Proposition A would have increased the city's sales tax by a half-cent, putting it at 9.5 percent overall, just under the 10 percent cap imposed by state law. According to the city, Proposition A would have raised about $211 million a year.
Revenue from the tax would have been used to fund the police and fire departments, along with senior services, gang- and drug-prevention programs and street and sidewalk repairs. Some city leaders called it essential to residents' safety, but opponents slammed it as a money grab by a city unable to control its own spending.
In a recent report to the City Council, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said passage of the tax is critical to provide continued funding of as many as 500 police officer positions and to maintain other services. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings were among the supporters speaking about the need for the tax to pass.
But opponents of the proposition, including former Mayor Richard Riordan, contended the tax proposal was a response to consistent failure by the city to control its spending.
"This sales tax hike is bad for L.A., bad for hard-working Angelenos, bad for job-creating businesses and bad for the city's reputation," opponents wrote in a ballot argument against the measure. "It's a regressive tax that will have a disproportionate impact on working and middle-class Angelenos and encourage consumers to shop in nearby lower taxed cities.
"Worst of all, it doesn't solve the budget crisis, and will make finding real solutions so much more difficult in the future while delaying desperately needed repairs to our streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure."
According to the city, the 9.5 percent tax rate would be on par with nearby cities such as Santa Monica, Inglewood and El Monte.
The city is facing an estimated $216 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year. In his report to the City Council, Santana said the deficit could jump to $360 million if the measure fails.
Beck and other supporters of the proposal have contended that the tax is critical to maintaining police service and bolstering the fire department.
"Without Proposition A's additional revenue, a minimum of 500 police officers that patrol our neighborhoods will be laid off and our historically low crime rates may be in danger," supporters wrote in a ballot argument in favor of the tax. "... Proposition A will cost the average Los Angeles resident less than 10 cents a day, and by law the tax cannot be applied to food and medicine."