Opinion | Los Angeles County Business Federation: BizFed Opposes Pasadena Sales Tax Increase

Proposed sales tax would be one of the highest in the state – 10.25% Pasadena City Council opts to shoot for the moon on tax increase rather than tighten its belt.

Published : Friday, October 5, 2018 | 5:31 AM

Small businesses and low-income residents should not be forced to pay an extra 3?4-cent sales tax, so Pasadena can maintain the status quo with no guarantee about where or how funds will be spent and no accountability to the public.

Councilmembers need to prove to voters that they are making every effort to cut costs and incorporate greater efficiencies into city operations before reaching into residents’ wallets.

That hasn’t happened.

In fact, after council members put the sales tax increase on the ballot, they were able to find enough money to hire a city attorney and Fire Department Battalion Chief – two highly paid positions, despite the city manager’s recommendation the position be eliminated – a $400,000 cost that one city council member referred to as “finding change in the couch.”

They were also able to find $2 million for a safety fence on the Colorado Street Bridge, also without making cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Members of the Los Angeles Business Federation (BizFed) feel the Pasadena City Council should be an example of fiscal prudence, governmental efficiency and revamped service delivery, before they reach into citizen’s wallets for a sales tax increase. BizFed Board members are particularly concerned that sales taxes are extremely regressive, impacting those at the lower end of the income scale much more severely than more affluent citizens.

The BizFed board voted at its September meeting to oppose the proposed sales tax increase, Measure I.

Should this measure pass, it will make Pasadena among one of the highest sales tax cities in California at 10.25%.

“Though increased taxes and fees are a high concern for our members, BizFed will support tax and appropriations measures that are necessary, include a spending plan, and have appropriate accountability, transparency, and citizen oversight,” said BizFed 2018 Board Chair, Hilary Norton. “Pasadena’s sales tax measure has none of these. Instead of working to create an efficient and effective government, the Pasadena City Council wants to impose a tax for an additional $14 million to $21 million per year to spend as it pleases on whatever they choose to fund.”

“Before we could support revenue increases that more severely impact those at the lower end of the economic scale, we would have to see the City of Pasadena make a real and substantive effort to economize,” said BizFed Founding Chair, David Fleming. “We have yet to see any attempt at realignment of services, re-envisioning service delivery or revamping the internal structures of city government in Pasadena. This measure simply helps Pasadena pay its pension obligations to the state and perpetuates the status quo.”

“Why, when Southern California is facing a housing affordability crisis, is Pasadena making it more difficult for those at the low end of the income scale to make ends meet?” added BizFed Founding CEO, Tracy Hernandez.

Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO, Paul Little noted the city is rushing, “to raise the city’s sales tax to the maximum allowed by the state – 10.25% – because they fear that the state or county will do it first. That is not good government.”

The Los Angeles County Business Federation, BizFed, is a grassroots alliance of more than 175 business organizations representing 395,000 businesses with nearly 4 million employees throughout L.A. County. BizFed advocates for policies and projects that strengthen the regional economy by exploring all sides of critical issues and takes action on policies to make a difference for business growth, job creation, and economic vitality in Southern California.

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