Senate committee approves measure to give LA County officials permission to seek tax hike

State lawmakers have given Los Angeles County officials transit special permission to seek a sales-tax increase.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted 8-1 to approve legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), that would give the Metropolitan Transit Authority

power to seek voter approval of a half-cent increase in the county’s sales tax to pay for transit projects.

Taxpayer groups opposed the measure, raising concerns about the precedent the state action may set.

The Los Angeles Times offers some context for recent transit taxes in Los Angeles. “Voters have approved three separate measures in Los Angeles County, for a total sales tax rate of 1.5% dedicated to transportation purposes. De León's bill exempts the county from a state law capping the tax rate that can be imposed within any local jurisdiction at 2%.  Because cities within Los Angeles County are at that cap already, the county needs an exemption, said Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for De León.

DeLeon said there are billions of dollars in transportation needs not addressed by previous tax increases. ““Los Angeles is one of the most congested transit corridors in the country,” De León told the committee this week.

In 2008, Los Angeles voters approved Measure R, which will provide billions of dollars for 30 years. But he said further investment is needed.