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Metro Endorses Measure R Sales Tax Extension

The extension has its critics. Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe says it would give the transit agency "an open checkbook for life."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors agreed today to ask Los Angeles County voters to approve a 30-year extension of the half-cent Measure R sales tax for transportation approved four years ago.

Measure R was originally set to expire in 2039, but proponents said approving an extension now would allow Metro to accelerate projects while construction costs are low and unemployment among construction workers is high.

If approved by voters in November, the sales tax would continue until 2069.

Metro would borrow money against the future revenues in order to accelerate current Measure R transit projects, including a subway extension to Westwood and a Gold Line extension to reach San Gabriel Valley foothill communities.

The measure still needs procedural approvals from the state legislature and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The state bill, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, will be heard by a Senate committee on Tuesday. It was already approved by the Assembly.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who championed the extension, called the move a "game-changer" that would create around 400,000 jobs.

"It's a big day for the people of Los Angeles," the mayor said. "It is a very big day."

But the extension was opposed by county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, who called the move premature since the current tax still has about 27 years remaining.

Ridley-Thomas said the extension had a high risk of failing, because of state tax increases that will be before voters in November. He proposed delaying a vote on the Measure R extension until Metro can conduct more polling on how voters feel about the tax extension. That motion was defeated.

Knabe also said the move, if approved, would run counter to Metro's conservative fiscal policies.

"Once you give the agency an open checkbook for life, you lose the discipline we've created," Knabe said.

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