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LA voters favor pot tax, police pension cuts on election night

March 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles voters turned out Tuesday to cast their ballots on a number of measures aimed at closing the city's huge budget shortfall.

The voters gave and the voters took and the question for city leaders remains whether it was enough to close a deficit that is expected to reach more than $350 million next year.

For medical marijuana dispensaries, the message from voters was to pay up. Proposition M, the medical marijuana tax measure, appeared to be passing with 59 percent in favor of the measure and 41 percent voting against it.

Measure M will allow the city of Los Angeles to collect $50 in taxes on every $1,000 medical marijuana clinics take in.

Supporters say the measure could generate $10 million a year, which would go into the city's general fund.

Opponents say users are already struggling to pay for the drug and some city leaders are concerned the tax could be illegal and may end up in the courts.

In the races for the Los Angeles City Council, it appeared the incumbents were cruising to victory.

In one of the more hotly contested races, Forescee Hogan-Rowles faced off against two-term Councilman Bernard C. Parks, Los Angeles' former police chief.

Parks was ahead by a small margin with 51 percent of the vote, compared to Hogan-Rowles' 44 percent.

The ugliest and one of the most expensive city council races is between Councilman Jose Huizar and businessman Rudy Martinez in the 14th District, which includes East Los Angeles.

Huizar was ahead with 64 percent of the vote to Martinez's 36 percent, according to latest ballot returns.

Meantime, a plan that scales back pensions for police, fire and Los Angeles Harbor Department employees is on its way to pass with 75 percent voting in favor of Measure G.

The measure will require all new hires who begin work after July 1 to help pay for their own health coverage.

Supporters say Measure G will help reduce the growing burden public employee benefits are having on the city's budget.

The voters are also in favor of redirecting existing tax dollars in the city to libraries. Measure L also got a huge amount of support.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 63 percent are in favor of the measure with 37 percent against it. The measure will gradually increase the amount of tax dollars going to the city libraries.

Opponents argue it will mean less money for basic services like fire fighters and police. The measure will eventually mean an extra $51 million a year for the city's 73 libraries.

The three measures will mean some savings for the city as well as new revenue, but there will also be new restrictions on how that money is spent. Also, if Measure M ends up in the courts, it may end up being a drain on city coffers rather than an asset.

Meantime, a ballot measure to impose a tax on companies that drill for oil within the city of Los Angeles is on its way to defeat.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 51 percent voted against Measure O which would have charged companies $1.44 for every barrel of oil extracted from city wells.

The measure was expected to generate more than $4 million in annual revenue.

Click here for all election results for the city of Los Angeles.