LOS ANGELES -- Measure J -- which would have extended LA County’s Measure R half-cent sales tax for transportation to accelerate construction of seven transit and eight highway projects -- has failed with 66.11% of the vote. The measure was on the Nov. 6 ballot but the LA County Registrar of Voters didn’t finish counting all ballots until Sunday, when it was determined that Measure J fell short of just 0.56% of votes, about 14,000 votes in all.

Since anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis won statewide passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, all measures to increase local sales taxes require approval by two-thirds of voters.

Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA, said: “Losing Measure J by 0.56 percentage points even as it won 66.11% of the popular vote is a painful and, frankly, appalling reminder that the ghost of Howard Jarvis still hovers over California. Only in California would 66 percent of the vote be a defeat instead of a landslide victory.”

Measure J would have extended the existing Measure R sales tax another 30 years, until 2069, and the longer revenue stream would have enabled LA Metro to secure low-interest loans enabling the acceleration of 15 major transportation projects, which were expected to also accelerate 250,000 jobs in LA County within the decade. Transit projects would have included the Green Line to LAX, Westside Subway, I-405 Transit Corridor and downtown LA Regional Connector.

Measure B1, a one-cent sales tax measure in Alameda County, also fell short with 66.53%, and the Alameda County Transportation Commission has asked for a recount.

The difficulty of mounting successful campaigns that can win the two-thirds vote required in order to raise funding for badly needed city and county services is bringing together a north-south coalition that is interested in reducing the local voter threshold to 55%. The fact that Democrats now hold a two-thirds majority in both the state Assembly and Senate increases the chance that a measure like this could win, as Republicans have opposed it in the past.

Measure J was supported by a powerful coalition of business, labor, environmental, community and civic groups including the LA Chamber of Commerce, Valley Industry and Commerce Association, LA-OC Building & Construction Trades Council, LA County Federation of Labor, Unite HERE, Laborers, Ironworkers, the Sierra Club, NRDC, American Lung Association in California, LA League of Conservation Voters, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, American Jewish Committee, the LA Dodgers, Eli Broad, AEG and many others.

Adds Zane, “Is it possible that Governor Brown, fresh off the forward momentum of Proposition 30 and Democratic gains in both houses of the Legislature, could become interested in a partnership with the powerful business-labor-environmental coalition that supported Measure J and that already supports changing the local voter threshold for new revenue sources?

“I think the answer is yes. And together we could return California to responsible democratic governance rather than the perversion of democracy that is the two-thirds vote requirement.”


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