The Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey is shown. Measure H keeps the hotel tax in… (Los Angeles Times )
Los Angeles County voters face two tax measures on the June 5 ballot, and they are unusual for several reasons: They ratify taxes that are already in place and have been for more than two decades; the taxes apply only in unincorporated areas of the county; and all residents benefit from the taxes although few ever will have occasion to actually pay them.
Measure H keeps the hotel tax in place at its current level. Measure L keeps a tax on landfill operators in place. H for hotels, L for landfills. Both taxes provide needed revenue for county services. Voters should approve them.
They're on the ballot only because they were increased after Californians adopted a measure to require public votes before most types of taxes could be raised, but before court rulings that made it clear that these particular taxes were covered by the vote requirement.
The county has long had a hotel tax, as have most larger cities and counties in Southern California and in fact across the nation. It's a popular kind of tax because local residents generally don't pay it; people who are visiting the jurisdiction pay it when they pay their hotel bills. (Of course, any resident who for some reason checks into a local motel will have to pay the tax as well.) Are they fair? Certainly — because Los Angeles County residents have to pay hotel taxes when they stay in San Francisco, New York or other places with hotel taxes, just as people from those places have to pay hotel taxes here.
The county has been sued by a man who spent a night at a Marina del Rey hotel and didn't want to pay his hotel tax; or, more to the point, he didn't want to pay the difference between the 10% tax that has long been on the books and the 12% rate that the Board of Supervisors imposed by ordinance beginning in 1991. The county is now dealing with a class-action lawsuit that will determine whether those 21 years' worth of taxes have to be refunded. In the meantime, voters can ensure by passing Measure H that at least the tax going forward is valid, allowing the county to spend $2 million annually on general fund services like parks and emergency services.
Measure L similarly ratifies a 10% tax on landfill operators in unincorporated parts of the county, in place since 1990. No one has yet sued to block that tax, but if someone does, approval of Measure L would at least protect the revenue — and the county services it covers — from election day forward.
Although both taxes apply only in unincorporated county areas, and few county residents will pay them, all county residents get to vote on them because the money raises funds for general county services that all residents need. The Times urges yes votes on Measure H and Measure L.
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