Metro Board votes 10-3 to ask county voters to extend Measure R sales tax to 2069

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday voted 10 to 3 to ask Los Angeles County voters to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax for 30 years beyond its 2039 expiration date to possibly accelerate transit and road projects funded by the original Measure R while creating jobs in the region.

The three ‘no’ votes came from Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. The remaining members of the Board voted ‘yes.’

The Board had to decide between an indefinite extension of Measure R, a 30-year extension and leaving Measure R as is. Metro staff proposed an indefinite extension but the Board chose to back a motion by Directors Diane DuBois and Richard Katz to go with the 30-year option.

The Board hopes to put the issue to voters in November when a high turnout is expected because of the presidential election. In order for that to happen, the state Legislature must first approve a state bill, AB 1446 (by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles), that if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown would allow the Measure R extension on the ballot. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors must also vote to allow the item on the November ballot.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa said after the vote that the extension proposal was backed by a wide coalition who viewed an expanded transit system as a way to make Los Angeles County look and function better while creating jobs in the process.

Villariagosa also noted that a new transportation funding bill pending in Congress would include an expanded federal TIFIA low-interest loan program. A Measure R extension could allow Metro to leverage those loans into potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for project acceleration.

Metro staff are recommending an extension of Measure R as a way to possibly complete the 12 Measure R transit projects by the mid-2020s and have the projects under construction within five years; the staff report is here (pdf). Under current plans, six Measure R plans would not have been complete until the late 2020s or 2030s but now may be accelerated. The projects are:

•The Westside Subway Extension to Westwood

•The Eastside Gold Line Extension to South El Monte or Whittier

•The Metro Connector to LAX

•The Green Line South Bay Extension to Torrance

•The West Santa Ana Branch Corridor project

•The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project

In addition, a Measure R extension would help fund the Regional Connector, which is currently planned for a 2019 completion.

Metro staff says that an extension of Measure R would allow them to use future Measure R revenues beyond the year 2039 to pay back loans and/or bonds that could be used to accelerate the projects. The Measure R extension proposal, however, does not obligate Metro to take any loans or sell any bonds.

 

Here is an earlier Source post looking at the details of the proposal.

Staff also say that a Measure R extension would supply an extra $3.7 billion to the 16 different highway projects funded by the original Measure R. Staff say that is money that otherwise does not exist and the funds could help the projects be completed at an earlier date.

The original Measure R half-cent sales tax increase was approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. It needed two-thirds approval to pass and received 67.93 percent of the vote with more than two million county residents voting for it.

Metro Director Mark Ridley-Thomas also offered a motion to delay the vote on whether to put the issue to voters until July, pending another round of polling of county residents, citing the $10-million cost to Metro of putting the issue on the ballot. His motion lost on a 9 to 3 vote, with Ridley-Thomas, Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich supporting. Director Gloria Molina was absent.

In response, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky offered a friendly motion that would prohibit Metro from spending any money on a public information campaign in support of the extension.

Supervisor Don Knabe said he did not support the Measure R extension because Metro just went to voters four years ago with a detailed spending plan over the next 30 years.

“Once you give the agency an open checkbook for life, you lose the discipline of what we’ve created,” Knabe said. “I just think it’s disingenuous to go back to the voters and say but we had a plan and now we need more money and we need more money forever.”

Supervisor Mike Antonovich reiterated criticisms he has made of the original Measure R and said that an extension would amplify those mistakes by failing to build a regional transit system, not funding the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont and beyond to Ontario Airport. He also questioned whether Metro would have funds in the future to operate new transit lines.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian said he believed the Measure R extension should ultimately be decided by county residents. “Let the voters of the county decide what they want,” he said, adding that all the many arguments for and against an extension should be put before voters.

14 replies

  1. why do I get the feeling that once Antonovich takes over, Metro will suffer? He was against building Constellation subway station and is now throwing a hissy fit over extending the Gold line to Claremont? I would love to see the Gold line expand further, but other rail projects in far more dense and urban areas need their turn first. The Sepulveda transit corridor is in serious need of an underground rail line.

    • Hi Jose;

      As editor of the blog, I try not to take sides in many of the big issues that go before the Board — as unanimity can be somewhat rare. I’ve known Supervisor Antonovich for some time now, both as a reporter and as editor of The Source, and I think it’s also fair to point out that he has consistently been an unquestionable supporter of mass transit in Los Angeles County, although he obviously has views about particular projects and their costs and benefits. As he is entitled to do.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. “He also questioned whether Metro would have funds in the future to operate new transit lines.”

    At least one member of the board knows how bad financial shape Metro is in right now to even operate them as it is today.

    So you have the project funds up to 2069. How about operational costs? Where’s that money going to come from? Higher fares, higher taxes, massive service cuts?

  3. Would I be wrong to say that Measure R2 is dead because County Supervisors Antonovich, Knabe, and Ridley-Thomas voted against it at the Metro Board?

    When the County Supervisors vote on it, that would only leave Supervisors Yaroslavsky and Molina to support it, which means Measure R2 won’t reach the ballot?

    • Hi Alex;

      Obviously it remains to be seen how the Supervisors vote. But it should be noted that in 2008 a majority of the Supervisors did not support Measure R but did ultimately decide to allow it to go to the ballot.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I think Ridley-Thomas could potentially vote “yes” eventually. He introduced a motion asking for more polling of the public to get a better idea of the public’s view on an extension that was ultimately rejected. He didn’t seem to be completely against an extension but rather wanted more information (which I think is fair). Hopefully with more information he will vote to put it on the ballot.

  5. Frank – 25% of Measure R proceeds and 25% of Measure R+ proceeds will be used to fund operating costs (5% rail, 20% bus).

  6. […] Big day at the Metro board meeting–after approving a team for the Union Station master plan, the board voted to push for an extension of the Measure R half-cent sales tax, which would help speed up the building of a whole bunch of rail lines. Right now, the Measure R tax (as approved in 2008) runs until 2039 and covers 12 lines; the board voted for an option that would extend that another 30 years. What Metro hopes to do is borrow against the future tax revenue and build several projects faster than current plans call for. But the extension is hardly a sure thing: first it’ll have to be passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, then it’ll have to go on the ballot for a County-wide vote (Metro hopes to get it on the November ballot, when there’ll be high turnout for the presidential election). Here are the lines that could be sped up under Measure R2, according to The Source: […]

  7. The BRU endlessly complains about bus service cuts without acknowledging that it is Measure R itself which prevented cataclysmic cuts in bus service. Thank goodness their disgusting and self-defeating attempt to defeat Measure R failed. The BRU would have born a big responsibility for the horrifying bus service cuts that would have followed soon after.

    Let’s work to make sure their misguided attempt to defeat Measure R+ fails too, so that the real rank-and-file transit riders across the county can actually have the transit options they deserve. Thank goodness the people the BRU claims to speak for won’t have to experience the bus service cuts that would have happened had Measure R not passed.

  8. At least one more Supervisor will be back on board once the Gold Line is put back in the plan. There is tremendous support in the San Gabriel Valley to extend this line east to at least the North Pomona Metrolink Station. Not doing so would result in another Norwalk Green Line and Metrolink misconnect.