Heading to the polls: What supporters, opponents say about Measure A and Measure B

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Los Angeles County voters heading to the polls on Tuesday, March 3rd will have to decide on presidential races as well as congressional and state legislation. More so in Long Beach, voters will decide the fate of two measures–– Measure A and Measure B. Here’s what supporters and opponents of the two measures have said:

Measure A
Measure A Transactions and Use Tax extension–– dubbed the “Infinity Tax” by its opponents–– was placed on the ballot last year by the Long Beach City Council in an effort to let voters decide if the sales tax that was approved in 2016 should extend past its original sunset date of 2027.

According to Ballotpedia.org, a “Yes” vote on Measure A would allow the City to continue an additional sales tax beyond 2027 and adjust the tax rates to 1% through 2023, 0.75% from 2023 through 2027 and 1% thereafter. It would generate an estimated $60 million in General Fund revenue until voters end it at a future election. A “No” vote would allow the City to continue its existing local sales tax, which is scheduled to expire in 2027 and would decrease the total sales tax rate in the city to 9.5%.

Measure A added 1% to the city’s sales tax when it passed in 2016. Funds were collected to be used on infrastructure and public-safety projects. The main supporters of this measure’s extension include Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Fire Department Chief Xavier Espino and Police Department Chief Robert Luna.

The key residents and community organizers that oppose the measure are Corliss Lee president of local advocate group Eastside Voice, statistical analyst Joseph Weinstein and architect/ community activist Carlos Ovalle.

Supporters of the measure stated that the extension does not raise taxes in the city, but rather keeps them level. They argue that since the implementation of the sales-tax measure in 2016, Long Beach has been “safer and healthier.”

To view Measure A updates from the City, residents can click here. On that same webpage, the City highlights infrastructure projects for Fiscal Year 2020 that range from residential-street improvements to stormwater pump stations, which will cost $19,541,896.

“We still have $2.6 billion in infrastructure needs,” Garcia, Espino and Luna stated in their argument for the measure. “Many streets, sidewalks and alleys are in desperate need of repair.”

Supporters of the measure extension say the revenue collected through the tax will continue to fund police services, paramedic response times, road repairs and the anticipated opening of Community Hospital, which was closed in July of 2018 over seismic concerns.

On the other side of the fence, those that do not support Measure A said the extension is a “permanent tax on the residents of Long Beach.”

They argue that the money collected through the sales tax benefitted police and fire unions for “raises and pensions, not new hires.”

“In order to take your money, they refused to write into the measure a legal guarantee of how it would be spent,” Lee, Weinstein and Ovalle wrote in their statement against the measure. “Instead, it’s a blank check for City Hall.”

Opponents have claimed that the closure of Fire Station 9 last year, and the construction of the new Civic Center in downtown raises questions on how the City spends money.

They added that the Measure A extension would impact “low-income residents, who can least afford it the hardest, as it’s a tax on basic necessities.”

Charles Parkins, Long Beach City attorney, stated in his impartial analysis of the measure that the five-member Citizens Advisory Committee that was created to make recommendations as to where Measure A funds needed to be prioritized would remain.

“The requirement for annual audits of expenditures also remains,” Parkins added.

Measure B
Measure B proposes to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), a hotel bed tax, that is paid for the occupancy of a guest room in a hotel, motel, inn or short-term rental–– for example, Airbnb. The tax is collected by the operator and only applies to visitors that are not Long Beach residents.

The proposed increase is 1%–– raising the current rate of 6% to 7%–– which the City estimates will provide an estimated $2.8 million in additional funding. To a non-resident of Long Beach renting a room, the proposed TOT increase amounts to an additional range of $1.80 to $2.00 more per night.

The funds would go towards the City’s General Fund. According to the City’s official website,council the council intends to pass a resolution declaring their intent to spend the funds on the City’s arts organizations and the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

The argument for voting “Yes” on Measure B states that it will “provide support for arts education in Long Beach schools, provide resources for Long Beach museums, theaters, live music and other cultural institutions,” and “pay for critical repairs and upgrades to the Convention Center.”

Main supporters of this measure include Mayor Garcia, former Long Beach Mayors Beverly O’Neill and Bob Foster, President/ CEO of the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Steve Goodling and Executive Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach Griselda Suarez.

The argument for voting “No” on Measure B states that it will in fact affect Long Beach residents because “it will make Long Beach lodgings less competitive for all kinds of tourism,” therefore impacting all local tourism workers and home hosts.

It’s also argued that there is no guarantee that the funds will go towards helping Long Beach arts, museums, conventions or other tourism. Opponents stated that despite the claims supporting the measure, the tax is all going to the General Fund and there is no specific program or purpose that gets any legal guarantee of increased funding.

“Much of the extra tax revenue has gone to huge salary and pension increases, extravagances like a billion-dollar City Hall and giveaways to favored developers and special interests,” opponents stated.

Spending concerns for Measure B referenced in the rebuttal argument statement seemed similar to those against Measure A. They claimed that repairs for streets, alleys and sidewalks have barely increased, funds for more police positions went toward overtime for existing officers and fire stations and engines were underfunded.

Residents that disapprove of Measure B include statistical analyst Weinstein, Leadership Team and local Airbnb host Eugenie M. Young, local school teacher Alexandre Hatlestad-Shey, and Long Beach resident Glennis Dolce.

Long Beach City attorney Parkins stated in his impartial analysis of the measure that if it is adopted, the combined total TOT paid by a hotel guest would increase from 12% to 13% of the hotel’s room rate.

A 1% increase in the general purpose TOT is estimated to generate $2.8 million in additional annual revenue. This is a general tax, which can be spent to fund general City services.