Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa came out Monday in favor of the Measure A half-percent sales tax on the March 5 ballot, saying he was pleased the City Council had agreed to all his conditions as he dismissed the opposition to it from political candidates.
"There is only one mayor and I'm the mayor of Los Angeles right now and I know that we have cut 80percent of the structural deficit ... the city is safer than any time since 1952 ... and we have done what we needed to do," Villaraigosa said at a news conference in support of the measure.
"The time is now for us to also have revenue that balances this budget in a way I can support."
All of the major mayoral candidates have come out against the sales tax measure, saying they believe the budget can be balanced by growing the economy. Also, Matt Szabo, a former deputy mayor in charge of the budget who is running for the 13th City Council District, questioned if the budget deficit is as large as projected.
Council President Herb Wesson said it was part of election politicking.
"These are individuals running for office and there are certain things you say and certain things you don't say," Wesson said. "I'm a little miffed and a little pissed off and would say be careful what you say.
"I would bet they are sitting out there somewhere with their fingers crossed saying, `Please, let this pass. Please, let this pass.' They don't want to take office and be handed a document with a $200 million deficit.
Measure A, which would raise $106 million the first year and $211 million the second year, needs a simple majority of voter support for approval.
Villaraigosa had withheld his endorsement for three months, saying he wanted the council to meet certain conditions.
For example, he wanted the council to build up a 5 percent reserve fund, create a budget contingency fund, develop plans for new management structures at the Los Angeles Zoo and Convention Center, create a new Economic Development Department and promise to use the new tax revenue to restore police and fire services.
The City Council took action on all of those items, Villaraigosa said.
Because this is a general sales tax increase, the council is prohibited from specifically designating funds for a particular program. However Villaraigosa believes the council will use the money to restore police and fire services.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana reported last week that without the sales tax, the city would have to cut the LAPD by 500 officers.
Police Chief Charlie Beck warned the department faces drastic cuts without the revenue from the sales tax.
"I'm a good manager, but I cannot do more without this money," Beck said. "I have not hired a civilian in three years and we have officers doing the work civilians should be doing. We have no money for overtime. I have not hired a mechanic in years. We need this sales tax."
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce also has endorsed the measure, saying it became convinced the city could not afford any more cuts in its programs. However, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association has come out against the proposal.