County Supports State Gas Tax Increase

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 today to back a legislative bid to increase the state tax on gasoline by five cents per gallon.

The Legislature's Budget Conference Committee proposed taking back more than 90 percent of gasoline taxes bound for city and county governments to pay obligations on state transportation bonds.

The loss to Los Angeles County under the tax diversion proposal was estimated at $109 million. The county expected to get a total of $115 million in gas tax revenues for fiscal 2009-10 and about $82 million for the following year.

The cities within the county -- there are 88 -- would lose an estimated $230 million over the two-year period, according to an estimate by the county's chief executive office.

In a statement yesterday, Supervisor Don Knabe warned that local roads could crumble under the state's proposal.

"The potential loss of these (dollars) goes far beyond simply fixing potholes," Knabe stated. "These transportation dollars are used for public safety fleets, maintaining our first responder systems, and ensuring our streets don't crumble away."

The California State Association of Counties is considering a recommendation to increase the tax by five cents as an alternative to the state's proposal. The existing state tax is 18 cents per gallon and roughly 6.5 cents of that is split evenly between cities and counties.

Supervisor Don Knabe, also the board's chairman, brought the issue before the board so that the supervisors could make a recommendation to CSAC, but he opposed the tax increase, despite his concerns about local funding.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich also opposed the increase, saying that the state's gasoline tax was already the highest in the nation.

Supervisor Gloria Molina asked that some conditions be added to the recommendation, including that the tax expire June 30, 2011, and that any funds generated by the new tax in excess of bond payments be returned to cities and counties.

Molina voted with Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky in favor of the increase.

The tax can be increased with vote by a two-thirds of the Legislature and does not need direct voter approval.

The California League of Cities has issued a legal opinion challenging the constitutionality of the state's proposed taking of the local share of taxes.

"Taxpayers pay for these funds at their local gas pumps, so the local money the State want to take should rightfully stay in place to pay for local projects," Knabe stated.

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