Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla on Monday signaled that the City Council would not act in time to place a half-cent sales tax hike before voters in May to pay for more police officers.


Padilla, who as president wields considerable power to schedule and frame debate on such a measure, said he did not think the council would act in time to put it on the citywide May ballot. Speaking at a Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum luncheon, he also said he believes more time is needed to craft a proposal more likely to gain widespread consensus.


Mayor James Hahn, Police Chief William Bratton and Police Commissioner Rick Caruso have been prodding the City Council to pass a police tax in time for the May election. If Hahn, who is running for re-election, survives the March primary, his name will be on the same May 17 ballot.


Padilla, who had offered his own proposal to fund the hiring of more officers, said the plethora of competing proposals and the politically-charged atmosphere surrounding the mayor's race have made it very difficult to craft a tax measure under tight deadlines.


"I've been a little disappointed this past week at City Hall," Padilla said. "Far too many people have been taking positions on what to do and what not to do and how that impacts the mayor's race," Padilla said.


Padilla has not endorsed any of the mayoral candidates. Councilmen Bernard Parks and Antonio Villaraigosa, who are also competing for Hahn's job, oppose the sales tax plan Hahn is proposing.


In order to get a measure onto the May ballot by the Feb. 11 deadline, the council must make a decision by this week.


"With some people at City Hall wanting to do something and some people at City Hall definitely not wanting to do something trying to put something on the ballot this May that doesn't have a strong unity behind it is a recipe for failure," Padilla said.


Last November, a ballot measure sponsored by L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca to raise the county's sales tax one-half cent failed to garner the required two-thirds vote.


The closeness of that vote prompted Hahn, Bratton and Caruso to urge a citywide attempt this spring, with Caruso offering to fund the campaign.

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