LOS ANGELES – A quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs appeared to emerge victorious Wednesday by a thin margin, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many provisional, questioned or late ballots still needed to be tallied.
With all precincts reporting, Measure H had 67.44 percent of the vote, just ahead of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. The measure was short of the threshold much of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, but it steadily gained ground as vote-counting continued, and it passed the two-thirds mark only when the final precincts reported.
The Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a countywide emergency and chose the sales tax hike over a number of other funding alternatives, including a millionaire’s tax, a parcel tax and a special tax on marijuana.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has called homelessness “the moral issue of our generation,” told City News Service that “Los Angeles County has the dubious distinction of having more homeless people on its streets on any given night than any other county in the United States.
The ballot measure — dubbed the Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness — garnered the support of more than 300 community advocates, labor unions, faith groups and other organizations, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Times.
Opponents of the measure argued that the tax increase would fail to make a significant difference in eliminating homelessness and that taxes are already too high. However, there was no organized campaign against Measure H and no argument in opposition was submitted for the ballot.
The quarter-cent sales tax is projected to provide $355 million annually for 10 years.
The county has promised to create a transparent process for spending the money, envisioning “an inclusive planning process which draws on the experience, expertise and wisdom of cities, homeless service providers and experts, the faith and business communities, formerly homeless individuals and county departments.”
The county has committed to hire an independent auditor to report on Measure H spending and to set up a citizens’ oversight advisory board to track allocations. A 10-year sunset clause is built in for accountability and assessment.
It will cost $450 million annually to provide all the support needed to end homelessness, according to LAHSA and the county board.
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