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City Council OK's Sales Tax Hike, Now It's Up to the Voters

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In a second and deciding vote taken today, the Los Angeles City Council has approved placing a half-cent sales tax hike on the March ballot. Aimed at countering a $216 million deficit in the 2013-14 fiscal year city budget, the proposed tax increase is anticipated to bring in up to $215 million in revenue.

However, the vote today wasn't pretty, and things got a little tense inside City Hall, according to City News Service.

City Council President Herb Wesson, who proposed the increase, got into a quick war of words and position with former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, who spoke against the tax hike today. Riordan cautioned the council that what needed to be done was not to tax residents, but to reform city employee benefits and pensions, and warned of a potential for bankruptcy.

Wesson lobbed back: "You know what Mr. Mayor, why didn't you fix it when you were mayor?"

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Riordan was unable to respond, but had his microphone cut off because his public comment time had expired.

Then Wesson again: "I get the last word ... This is our house," he said.

But the former mayor was joined by the current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, in not supporting the tax increase. He said he would not sign ordinance, which ensures that the ultimate choice will be up to the voters come March. Joining Villaraigosa in opposing the hike are councilmembers Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti, Dennis Zine, and Mitch Englander, who comprised the 4 "no" votes on the council.

But the increase has supporters in the remaining 11 councilmembers, and in Police Chief Charlie Beck. Unfortunately for Beck, he doesn't live in the city of L.A., which means it won't be on his ballot next year.

Wesson has previously warned council and voters monitoring the issue that not approving the tax increase means the city will continue to struggle to find new revenue, which could lead to more layoffs, particularly on the police force.