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Subregions deserve their share of funds

Posted: July 16, 2008 1:41 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A Los Angeles Times editorial accused county Supervisor Gloria Molina of being “parochial” and an “obstructionist” because she advocates for protecting the regional distribution of revenue under the proposed sales tax measure.

The subregions of Los Angeles County have every right to ask for an equitable distribution of revenues they will generate under a new county-wide sales tax. This request is not obstructionism — it is based on the historic failure of the Los Angeles City-centric MTA Board to provide equitable regional funding for county-wide projects.

The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky ignore the fact that over 60 percent of the county’s population lives — and over 67 percent of the county sales tax is produced — in the 87 cities and 134 unincorporated communities outside of the city of Los Angeles.

The traffic woes of the county are also found in all subregions — from the 210, 10, 60, 605 and 57 in the San Gabriel Valley to the 5 in the Santa Clarita Valley to the 405 in the South Bay to the 14 in the Antelope Valley to the 101 in the San Fernando Valley — because traffic moves along all corridors throughout the county.

The subregions of Los Angeles County banded together and advocated for the passage of Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion statewide bond for transportation projects that passed in November 2006.

This amazing level of regional collaboration was fostered by the promise that these funds would be allocated throughout the county in an equitable fashion. Places like the San Gabriel Valley passed the bond by a rate of almost 70 percent based on this commitment.

So what happened? Prop 1B passed and Los Angeles city took over 48 percent of the $3.16 billion in funding the county received from bond categories designed for highway, rail, bus, streets, roads and traffic signal synchronization projects.

By contrast, the San Gabriel Valley only received 5 percent of this funding, the South Bay Cities 2 percent, the West San Fernando Valley Cities 0.05 percent and the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys 0.7 percent.
This result was well below these subregions’ fair share of funding based on any measurement of equity, most notably population. Once again, they were a victim of Los Angeles city’s greed.

From the three major Prop 1B funding categories for highways, transit and traffic signal synchronization, the city of Los Angeles took home a whopping 61 percent, 52 percent and 94 percent of the county’s share, respectively.

This recent exploitation of the subregions’ trust and their collaboration with the city of Los Angeles will not be repeated again in any new county-wide sales tax measure or in the current proposed State legislation, AB 2321.

The worry that the subway, at a cost of $450 million or more a mile, will consume the bulk of sales tax revenue over 30 years is justified under AB 2321, which mandates the MTA to complete all projects listed in the legislation (including the Westside Subway Extension) with the new sales tax dollars first before any new projects can be added to the list.

With pressure to expand the definition of the “Westside Subway Extension” to include an offshoot along Santa Monica Boulevard to Hollywood, the full cost of the subway has yet to be defined but could surpass $10 billion if it is fully loaded.

Fiscal accountability to finish the subway on budget will be non-existent with the full knowledge that cost overruns will be absorbed by the rest of the county taxpayer’s share of sales tax dollars.

Meanwhile, AB 2321 refuses to support the Gold Line Foothill Extension to the county border, at a fraction of the cost of the subway system, meaning that the San Gabriel Valley would have to hope that the MTA Board, which denied it $80 million just last month to gain federal matching funds, would reconsider its consistent animosity toward this vital project.

A subregional split of regional funds would ensure that the public will receive full value from its tax dollars and the quality of life for Los Angeles County will improve in all areas, as expected by the taxpayers.

For the Los Angeles Times to attack Supervisor Gloria Molina for speaking the truth about the status of transportation funding equity in Los Angeles County is inappropriate and illustrative of the Times’ failure to support regional transportation in Los Angeles County.

For the Times to lecture the subregions of the county on wanting their fair share of funding that their taxpayers generate from a county-wide sales tax bill, after years of inequity at the hands of the MTA, is arrogant.

The Times’ specious argument to the subregions — that they should be happy to get shortchanged again, willfully, with their tax dollars just so they can get an inequitable share of funding — is stupid.

The real question should be asked of the city of Los Angeles: Why would you turn down your fair share of $15 billion of a $40 billion sales tax measure because you oppose the subregions’ request for an equitable return on their tax investment?

If equity is not incorporated into this sales tax measure, it will be defeated handily.

If the city of Los Angeles wants to see any funding for its projects from a county-wide sales tax, it will need to work with the subregions to determine an equitable distribution of the $40 billion to be generated by this measure.

In the end, the Times’ analysis of the situation as “parochial” is shortsighted, uninformed and unconvincing.


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