County supervisors will consider sales tax hike to pay for homeless services

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On November 8, Los Angeles County voters signed off on a half-cent sales tax increase paying for the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure. As soon as March, they may be asked to approve another sales tax bump, this time funding services for the roughly 47,000 homeless individuals who call LA County home.

At a meeting of the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the supervisors will discuss the possibility of adding a measure to March ballots calling for a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax that would last 10 years, raising an estimated $355 million annually. Revenue from the measure would be used to fund a countywide plan for addressing homelessness developed earlier this year with input from individual cities, public agencies, and community partners.

In addition to potentially adding the measure to the March ballot, the supervisors will also vote on a resolution declaring a state of emergency over LA’s rapidly growing homeless population.

“The current crisis is disrupting nearly every community and compromising public health and safety,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-wrote both motions. “This [ballot] measure would work to ensure all homeless children, veterans, women and other adults get off and stay off the streets.”

Recent election results suggest the time may be right for this type of proposal. In November, LA city voters overwhelmingly approved a new property tax to pay for the construction of housing for the homeless. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ridley-Thomas tells Curbed that polling numbers suggest that voters are likely to support the measure.

Already, community support for the proposal is strong. More than 75 organizations, including service providers, faith groups, and business associations have signed a letter to the supervisors supporting the measure.

“This crisis is disrupting nearly every community,” LA Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben said in a press release. “We know what works, and the county plan to combat homelessness is worth funding. But the longer we wait the more expensive it becomes to deal with the problem.”

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