First, the caveat: The Metro Board has not — emphasis on the HAS NOT part — decided to take a ballot measure to Los Angeles County voters.
That said, in recent months, both the Board as a whole and individual members have said they want to explore the idea of taking a ballot measure to voters in 2014 or 2016. Furthermore, the Board has instructed Metro to ask local cities what kind of transportation projects that may want funded in such a measure.
As the above Metro staff report explains, there are still many decisions to be made.
Perhaps the most significant: should a ballot measure seek an extension of Measure R to accelerate projects? Or should it perhaps be a new sales tax to provide more money for some Measure R projects and perhaps pay for some new ones?
Some quick background. The Measure R half-cent sales tax increase was approved by 68 percent of county voters in Nov. 2008. The Measure R expenditure plan spread money around to many transit and road projects across the county.
In some cases, Measure R provides most of the money needed to build a project — a good example is the second phase of the Expo Line. In other cases, Measure R only provides partial funding and not enough money for more expensive project alternatives and segments.
As for timing, the California gubernatorial election is on the Nov. 2014 ballot while the U.S. presidency will be decided in Nov. 2016. At present, a county transit ballot measure requires two-thirds approval for passage, which in turn usually requires high turnout to achieve. More people participated in the Measure R vote in ’08 than the Measure J vote in ’12 (Measure J would have extended Measure R another 30 years — i.e. to mid-2069).
There was an effort in the state Legislature to lower that threshold to 55 percent. But it didn’t get anywhere and was tabled for future discussion. Lowering the threshold so that it applies to a Nov. 2014 election therefore becomes a big challenge.
Please read the report — there are a lot of different aspects to this; the report is scheduled to be discussed in the Board’s Planning Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
We’ll see where the conversation goes. In my view, the narrow loss of Measure J last year, with 66.1 percent approval, indicates there is still pretty strong support around the area for the Measure R.