Do You Trust the Gang at Metro to Manage Another 90 Billion of Your Dollars? Say No to the Measure J Slush Fund
- Written by Jack Humphreville
12 Oct 2012
LA WATCHDOG - “Would it be a good idea to see how Metro handles the first $40 billion of sales tax revenue before we give them an additional $90 billion?”
You bet it is.
This is reason enough to vote NO on Measure J, the November ballot measure that proposes to extend the life of the “one-half cent traffic relief sales tax” for an additional thirty years to 2069.
If passed by two-thirds of the voters, this extension would provide the politically controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority (“Metro”) with an additional $90 billion, resulting in a 60 year total of $130 billion.
While we have questioned Metro’s management capability and organizational resources to control so many complex, capital intensive highway and mass transit construction projects that will burden our grandchildren with tens and tens of billions in debt and interest payments, we have not focused on the allocation of 40% of these sales tax revenues dedicated to finance the massive operating losses of the Metro’s bus and train operations and to fund the “Local Return Improvement” program.
25% of the Measure R and Measure J money is mandated to help cover the annual billion dollar plus operating losses of Metro’s inefficient and highly subsidized transit operations.
And while we may not all agree on the politics surrounding the huge subsidies for Metro’s labor intensive bus and rail operations, at least we know where the money is being spent.
That is not so true for the 15% for the sales tax revenue that will be diverted to the County’s 88 cities and the unincorporated areas of the County under the “Local Return Improvement” program.
Local Return projects would include pothole repair, safety improvements for both roads and bridges, the establishment of bikeways, operating subsidies for politically popular transit programs, and various other programs that would normally be funded through the General Fund.
The City of Los Angeles would be entitled to about 40% of the Local Return funds based on its share of the County’s population.
But as with most items that involve the flow of money in the City, the ultimate use of these funds will be hard to trace.
Last year, for example, Mayor Villaraigosa proposed LA Road Works, a hare-brained scheme where the City would fund the repair of 25% of our lunar cratered streets through an $800 million bond offering secured by over $1.4 billion in future Local Return Measure R revenues.
But this deal was DOA (dead on arrival) when the City Council and Public Works realized that the City did not even have an operational plan for the Ten Year Maintenance and Repair Program recommended by the Bureau of Street Services in its November 2011 State of the Streets Report.
With this all this new found money sloshing around City Hall, the Mayor and the City Council would love to stuff this dough in their own slush funds that would be used to finance their pet projects and those of their cronies.
However, in light of the next year’s projected budget deficit of $216 million (a function of the $300 million increase in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions), our “kick the can down the street” Elected Elite may have to devote a portion of this money to filling potholes and repaving and resurfacing our streets.
Of course, this will allow the City to slash the budget of Street Services and use these “savings” to “balance” the budget.
Whether it is a slush fund for pet projects or a “rob Peter to pay Paul” scheme, it is obvious that we cannot trust the Mayor and the City Council to use these Local Return monies in a prudent manner.
No wonder we need a charter amendment that requires the City to “Live Within its Means.”
And before we drown our grandchildren in a sea of debt, it would be an excellent idea to see if Metro and the City utilize the $40 billion already allocated under Measure R in an efficient manner before we vote to give them an additional $90 billion.
Vote NO on Measure J.
Vol 10 Issue 82
Pub: Oct 12, 2012