A temporary half-cent sales tax should be made permanent to help accelerate a dozen major transportation projects, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told residents Wednesday night during his State of the City speech.
I am "asking voters to continue Measure R until the voters themselves decide to end it," Villaraigosa said during his address at Paramount Studios.
Measure R, approved by more than two-thirds of county voters in 2008, is set expire in 2039. The temporary tax funded 12 projects, including a subway to the Westside, a downtown subway connector and an extension of the Gold Line light rail into the San Gabriel Valley.
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Villaraigosa on Wednesday called these transit projects "game changing."
"This investment in mass transit is unprecedented, and we know it," Villaraigosa said.
Making the tax permanent will allow the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to finish the projects in 10 years, instead of 30, a point Villaraigosa repeated during his speech.
More than 400,000 jobs will be created over the lifetime of Measure of R, which would "put people to work and make it easier for Angelenos to get to work," Villaraigosa said.
If the tax is made permanent, Metro expects to raise $9 billion by leveraging future tax revenues for better bond rates.
''This would not commit anybody to any bonding. It's really just putting one more tool in the toolbox,'' Metro Board member Richard Katz said. ''If we pump $1 billion every year into these projects, our economy is going to skyrocket and will be a huge economic boost for the county.''
It would also require an amendment to state law that bars taxes for transportation from being limited to 30 years. Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who is running for City Attorney, has introduced a bill that would change the law.
A ballot measure to extend Measure R indefinitely would require a two-thirds vote by L.A. County voters.
Villaraigosa also lauded LA's economic attractiveness, citing Lucky Jeans, Google and Farmers Insurance choosing to bring several thousands of jobs to the Southland.