Los Angeles County is planning to pass a new law that will tax millionaires to fund homeless programs for the poor. The so-called ‘millionaires’ tax’ will pay for housing and other services for L.A. County’s homeless residents. The County Board of Supervisors has already voted to pursue a similar version of the law at the state level. L.A. County has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there are nearly 47,000 people living on the streets and 126,000 millionaires.
County officials have estimated that it would take about $500 million per year to solve the homeless problem in the whole county. Earlier this year, the city and county made plans to address the issue, approving $150 million to building new houses and provide basic services for the homeless. However, finding the money has been a challenge, hence the ‘millionaires’ tax.’
The announcement came in June that the county is going to tax the rich to pay for homes for the poor. The millionaires’ tax will target anyone with an income above $1 million with a 0.5% tax on all income above $1 million. With the estimated number of millionaires in the county, the tax could raise up to $243 million in funding.
The County’s Board of Supervisors has backed the tax, and the county government is now seeking approval from state Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature. Because the county does not have authority to increase income taxes, a change to state law would have to be made before the tax moves forward. The ‘millionaires’ tax’ would still need to go to voters on the November ballot and get a two-thirds approval before taking effect, but the Los Angeles County Homelessness Survey reports that 76% of county residents support the proposed tax.
The Board of Supervisors approved another measure in May that would look at the nearly $1 billion the County spends on homeless single adults to find ways to better address the needs of the chronic users of the system. County Supervisor Hilda Solis had earlier tried to put the brakes on the millionaires’ tax, raising questions about the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s polling methodology and the accuracy of its estimate of L.A.’s homeless population, but withdrew after her concerns were addressed. The Board’s two Republicans, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, voted against the proposal in May.
The state legislature is also considering a proposal to issue $2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 to 14,000 housing units for mentally ill homeless people statewide. The money would be paid back over 20 to 30 years using money provided by Proposition 63, another millionaires’ tax that was approved by voters in 2004 to fund mental health programs. But the bond money would only pay for building the house, not services or housing subsidies.
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