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Expect more tax increases and fewer results from Los Angeles County – Daily News

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath speaks about homeless numbers on Friday, June 28, 2024. Homeless numbers decreased 0.27% in Los Angeles County and 2.2% in Los Angeles City this year. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

On Monday afternoon, firefighters were called to Sepulveda Basin to fight a brush fire at a homeless encampment. Ten firefighters were injured, one seriously, when something exploded in the encampment.

Officials said the cause of the fire and explosion was “under investigation.”

How exciting. Maybe they’ll find out that a hotheaded squirrel finally had all it had. Or maybe, wait for it, maybe the fire and explosion were caused by a homeless camp in the Sepulveda Basin.

How much of each fire department’s budget in California is spent fighting fires in and around homeless encampments?

As always in California, the response from government officials is, “That’s why you have to pay higher taxes.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put a new sales tax increase on the November ballot for voters to approve. The measure is an initiative, and proponents have been collecting signatures from Los Angeles County voters to put it on the ballot. Supervisors technically had two options Tuesday. They could vote to put it on the ballot now, or they could vote to request a report to be sent back to them in 30 days and then vote to put it on the ballot.

They voted to put this on the ballot now. Had they waited 30 days, the initiative likely would have missed the November election deadline, and the Board of Supervisors has been fighting to get this tax increase on the ballot since June 2023. They pushed for legislation that would allow LA County to raise the sales tax beyond what is legally allowed, specifically to increase the sales tax for homeless programs. That was Assembly Bill 1679, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 10.

The supervisors’ problem was that voters in 2017 approved a 0.25% sales tax increase for homeless programs, but it was temporary, lasting only 10 years. The homeless crisis has worsened since taxpayers have been showering the county with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional sales taxes each year, paid for by people buying what they need to live.

Measure H was expected to cost Los Angeles County residents about $355 million annually, but it has already cost $527 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Inflation increases both prices and sales taxes.

But inflation is a small lump compared to Los Angeles County officials and their army of employees in the nonprofit and developer communities that are amply funded with your tax dollars. These groups crafted the tax increase proposal that would double the Measure H sales tax to 0.50% and eliminate the pesky sunset provision, making the tax stay in place forever.

That’s why it’s an initiative. The state constitution requires a two-thirds majority of voters to pass a “special” tax increase, meaning the money is dedicated to a specific purpose rather than general government spending. But in 2017, the state Supreme Court pointed out in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland that the state constitution may not apply when a tax increase is put to the ballot by citizen initiative. So a simple majority would be enough to pass an “initiative” tax increase.

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