The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on July 17 to move forward with imposing a rain tax – a parcel tax of 2.5 cents per square foot of improvements that cannot be permeated by rainwater.
If approved by voters in November, the tax will cost taxpayers an estimated $300 million annually.
The supervisors placed the measure on the ballot after a nearly five-hour hearing that included testimony from more than 125 stakeholders, ranging from homeowners and business owners to environmentalists seeking more funds for water conservation, rainwater storage and clean water programs.
Testifying on behalf of the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks, Peter Herzog said: “There’s been a lot of discussion about this program and this initiative, … (but) there’s been almost no discussion about what this is, and that it is a tax. A brand new, permanent parcel tax. … It is a tax on homes, residents and housing. … This will increase the cost of housing. That has to be understood.”
Herzog also noted that small business owners, who often have small margins, will be least able to afford the tax.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger had similar concerns. “While clean water and recycling and capturing efforts are important, the county needs to step back and reevaluate funding priorities,” she said, “especially considering a recent increase in public health fees, a new business registration fee, the County Library’s structural deficit, and a potential ballot measure requested by the Fire Department to address its structural deficit.”
CalTax opposes the measure because, among other things, the proposal lacks clarity regarding what property improvements would be subject to the tax, does not contain oversight or accountability requirements, does not have a sunset date, and is not uniform.
In addition to voting to place the tax on the ballot, the supervisors approved spending an additional $2 million for a contract for “public outreach and education,” bringing the county’s total contract to $11.2 million. “Public outreach and education” will be used to explain to voters what the tax does and how it will provide funding for a “safe, clean water program.” An “educational” video aired during the meeting touted the measure as one that would result in “better quality of life for everyone in L.A.,” and ended with the statement: “Now let’s do this, before the opportunity dries up.”
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