Los Angeles County Sales Tax, Measure R (November 2008)

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A County of Los Angeles Sales Tax, Measure R ballot question was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Los Angeles County, California, where it was approved.

Measure R increased the county sales tax from 8.25% to 8.75% (a half-cent increase) to fund transportation projects. The Measure R tax will last for 30 years and will cost taxpayers an estimated $40 billion for roadway and transit projects. According to the independent nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), the average cost per person would be $25 per year.

The official title of Measure R was Traffic Relief. Rail Extensions. Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence. It was proposed by the Los Angeles County Metro Transit Authority (MTA or "Metro") as a county-wide sales tax.

A two-thirds supermajority vote was required for approval.

Election results

Measure R
Approveda Yes 2,039,214 67.93%
These final, certified, election results are from the Los Angeles County elections office.

Planned use of funds

Projects to be funded with the proceeds of the Measure R sales tax included:

  • Synchronize traffic signals;
  • Repair potholes;
  • Extend light rail with airport connections, including Green Line service to LAX and South Bay Corridor, the Purple Line from Western/Wilshire to Westwood, Exposition Boulevard Light Rail Transit from Culver City to Santa Monica, the 24 mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont, develop a West Santa Ana branch transportation corridor, and a rapid transit option through the I-405/Sepulveda Pass;[1][2]
  • Accelerate completion of Canoga Corridor Orange Line to Chatsworth as well as completion of San Fernando Valley East North-South Rapidways;
  • Link Local Rail lines through a Regional Connector (Long Beach/Pasadena, Culver City/East LA lines)
  • Improve freeway traffic flow (5, 10, 14, 60, 101, 110, 138, 210, 405, 605, 710);
  • Keep senior / student / disabled fares low;
Measure r main image 007a.jpg
  • Provide clean-fuel buses;
  • Expand subway / Metrolink / bus service;
  • Community traffic relief.[3][4]


Measure R was supported by:

  • Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City of Los Angeles
  • American Lung Association of California
  • Coalition for Clean Air
  • Coalition of Rapid Transit
  • The Transit Coalition
  • Friends 4 Expo Transit
  • Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters
  • Bruins for Traffic Relief[5]

Arguments in Favor

  • "If Measure R fails, little gets built for 30 years" according to Mayor Villaraigosa.[6]
  • "Measure R will create 210,000 new jobs as estimated by the nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation."[7]
  • Measure R would cost "just $25 per person each year. Compare that to what traffic congestion and poor roads cost us today."[8]
  • Such action will put Los Angeles transport in a position to solicit federal funding, "as part of the next economic stimulus package (a la New Deal programs in the 1930s) is being given serious consideration" on the national scene, according to Southern California Transit Advocates, a Los Angeles-based public transportation advocacy and public policy review organization[9]
  • The measure "would help prevent many illnesses related to air pollution, including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer" by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars, potentially benefiting residents throughout the county region.[10]
  • "Until we offer people a viable alternative to their cars that also gets them off the road, we aren't doing enough to improve the quality of life of local residents."[11]
  • "This isn't just about commutes. It's about productivity of workers, improving the business climate for employers..."[12]
  • Measure R's public transport could increase pedestrian traffic going to/from subway stations, preserve walkable areas of the city, and re-invigorate neighborhoods.[13]



Measure R was opposed by:

  • The Glendora City Council was opposed, with Mayor Pro Tem Mark Kelly saying, "This is nothing more than a ploy to build a subway to the sea for the Mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa)."[14]
  • The Culver City Chamber of Commerce, which said, "The Chamber feels this is the wrong time to impose such a tax on business and the public."[15]
  • The cities of Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Duarte, Irwindale, La Puente, Monrovia, Pomona, San Dimas, South Pasadena, West Covina.[16][17]

Arguments against

  • The measure is a special interest "subway to the sea" and does not equally benefit outlying areas which would receive lower amounts of funding for transportation projects
  • A sales tax "is regressive because the rich and the poor have to pay the same amount"[18]
  • It may increase racial tensions between classes which utilize the bus system, and a more white, affluent population which would benefit from rail[19]
  • The proposition discriminates against buses, as bus funds could be raided to pay for rail projects. It may continue a trend of spending monies and subsidies on rail over buses, and subsidizing rail (per ride) in larger amounts than buses-- thus punishing the mainly poorer ridership of buses.[20][21]
  • A sales tax is the wrong way to finance such a measure during a major economic recession

Name left off ballot argument

The name of Pomona City Councilman George Hunter was accidentally left off the official ballot argument against Measure R, resulting in an official apology from Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan.[22]

Controversy over taxpayer funds

On September 11, Los Angeles County transit removed material that appeared to promote Measure R from their website, after complaints by opponents, including county superivsor Don Knabe, that what was said on the government-owned website was an improper use of taxpayer funds to take a position on a ballot measure.

The county-funded Metropolitan Transportation Authority had also purchased radio ads urging listeners to visit their website to read arguments in favor of Measure R, fueling complaints over improper allocation of tax payer funds.


Editorial opinion

"Yes on Measure R"

The Los Angeles Times asked its readers to consider a "yes" vote despite opposition from outlying areas of the county, saying, "A well-designed transportation network relieves bottlenecks in places where demand is greatest, and such high-density corridors aren't evenly distributed on the map. The projects to be funded by Measure R have been well chosen to maximize efficiency and thus give taxpayers the best bang for their bucks regardless of where they live."[25]

The Daily News Los Angeles supported the measure, saying, "We've reached the point where the leaks in Los Angeles County's transportation system can no longer be ignored."[26]

"No on Measure R"

The Long Beach Press Telegram opposed the measure, writing that its residents should not have to pay for "billions earmarked for West Los Angeles projects."[27]

The Pasadena Star News opposed the measure on similar grounds, arguing "inequitable funding" as a reason for a "no" vote.[28]

The Antelope Valley Press opposed the measure as a "boondoggle in the basin" that would do little to help its "far flung" residents, and would raise taxes during an economic downturn.[29]

Path to the ballot

The vote to place the measure on the ballot, taken by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors, was 9-2 with one abstention and one absent.

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information:




  1. https://web.archive.org/web/2/http://www.metro.net/measurer/rail_expansion.html
  2. Los Angeles Times Say no to traffic: Vote 'yes' for Measure R and Proposition 1A, Nov 2, 2008
  3. County Sales Tax Rises To Fund Transit Projects, July 24, 2008
  4. Expenditure plan, Text of R
  5. The Daily Bruin, "Students take to the streets for public transit"
  6. Los Angeles Times, "If Measure R fails, little gets build for 30 years Villaraigosa says," October 20, 2008
  7. Yes on Measure "R" LA
  8. Yes on Measure "R" LA
  9. Daily News Los Angeles: "Transit Advocates Weigh In on Measure R," October 27, 2008
  10. Yes on Measure R: A lifeline for commuters
  11. Los Angeles Times Say no to traffic: Vote 'yes' for Measure R and Proposition 1A, Nov 2, 2008
  12. Los Angeles Times Say no to traffic: Vote 'yes' for Measure R and Proposition 1A, Nov 2, 2008
  13. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-measurer30-2008oct30,0,1077450.story
  14. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Glendora City Council opposes Measure R," October 14, 2008
  15. Los Angeles Times blog, "More opposition to Measure R emerges"
  16. List of cities and Baldwin Park resolution opposing R
  17. Los Angeles Times bottleneck blog, "San Gabriel Valley versus Measure R" (dead link)
  18. No on the Six (dead link)
  19. Los Angeles Times The MTA's Sales-Tax Boondoggle, July 31, 2008
  20. Los Angeles Times The MTA's Sales-Tax Boondoggle, July 31, 2008
  21. Los Angeles Times Bottleneck Blog Rail wins over busses, May 7, 2007
  22. Santa Clara Valley Non-Profit News Center, "County Registrar Apologizes to Pomona Councilman for Ballot Argument Omission," October 10, 2008
  23. Los Angeles Times, "L.A. County transit agency removes Measure R material from website," September 12, 2008
  24. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, "MTA removes online message," September 11, 2008
  25. Los Angeles Times: "Yes on Measure R; It's a tough time to seek a tax hike, but Measure R is worth it," October 9, 2008
  26. Daily News"Measure R Flawed but Needed"
  27. Long Beach Press-Telegram Editorial (No on Measure R)
  28. Pasadena Star News Measure R snubs region, October 25, 2008
  29. https://web.archive.org/web/2/http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/bottleneck/2008/10/antelope-valley.html