Measure A, the proposed half-cent increase to the city of Los Angeles sales tax, failed 55 percent to 45 percent.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck argued the tax hike was necessary to avoid serious budget cuts to the police and fire departments.
During the campaign, city officials said the tax hike would address persistent budget deficits. Los Angeles faces a $200 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The new tax would have raised about that amount annually.
Like many cities, Los Angeles is struggling to recover from a dramatic drop in revenue since the Great Recession while coping with rising pension and healthcare costs for its employees. Since 2009, L.A. has eliminated more than 5,000 jobs, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.
“Across the board, there’s been significant reductions throughout the city,” he told KNBC during the campaign. “Every year is going to be harder and harder to balance the budget without having to reduce police and fire."
Former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye, who blogs about local politics, said City Hall remains fraught with waste. He campaigned against the tax increase, arguing elected officials have refused to make difficult decisions.
“The city council and the mayor have shown no backbone, no political will, no willingness to come to terms with the fact that their payroll benefits and pension costs are out of line with what the city can afford,” Kaye said.
All of the top mayoral candidates opposed Measure A. In addition to Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief Beck, a majority of the city council and labor unions representing city employees supported it.