Tasked with garnering support for a Board-approved motion seeking legislative authority to help fund the fight against homelessness, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas journeyed to Sacramento to speak with lawmakers about the crisis in Los Angeles County.
“We’ve polled extensively and we’ve learned from the people of the County of Los Angeles that homelessness is a top tier issue, second only to jobs and the economy,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas testified before the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, chaired by state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). “Homelessness is the issue driving people’s conscience, stirring their spirits, causing us to know what we need to do.”
You will hear from the County of Los Angeles a cry of urgency,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, speaking on behalf of the Board. “We need your help in allowing us to do what we need to do. We need to go to the ballot and we need your permission to allow us to do that.”
With 46,874 homeless in the County on any given night, the Board approved a Homeless Initiative to explore options for addressing the crisis this growing problem. After conducting 18 policy summits and collaborating with 25 County departments, 30 cities, and more than 100 community organizations, the Office of the Homeless Initiative developed 47 strategies.
The Board approved those strategies in February and allocated $100 million in one-time funding for initial implementation. Now it is weighing options for funding, including redirecting Measure B revenue, imposing a parcel tax, a marijuana tax, a half-cent sales tax, or a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year. At present, the Board cannot use the last option as it requires a change in state law.
A recent poll has shown that a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year tax would be supported by 76 percent of likely voters. It would also generate $243 million each year, which, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, would cover about half the annual amount needed to provide services to the homeless population on an ongoing basis.
“I am asking this Committee to consider the Board’s directive to include budget trailer bill language that would provide counties with the authority to seek voter approval at the local level to impose a special tax on personal annual incomes over $1 million dollars for purposes of providing housing and services for homeless individuals/families,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in Sacramento.
He also expressed the Board’s support of the state Senate’s No Place Like Home proposal, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), which seeks to build affordable housing for the homeless and mentally ill.
“The No Place Like Home proposal is an excellent start – it will predominantly provide the resources to build the infrastructure,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County, however, also needs to find the ongoing revenue to support the services that homeless individuals will need, even after they obtain housing.”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas met with several state lawmakers, and also urged the public to advocate for trailer bill language that would grant counties the authority impose a special tax on personal income above $1 million a year to address the County’s crisis of homelessness.