City considers possible oil tax ballot measure to fund racial equality efforts

Long Beach voters this November may be asked to consider a ballot measure that would raise the tax on oil production to fund racial equality efforts in light of the nation’s mass police brutality protests.

The local plan comes as cities across the country are considering police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in April.

Last month, the Long Beach City Council voted to move forward with a “Framework for Reconciliation” plan that would focus on racial injustice, police reform and other policy changes to address historic inequalities. Council members on Tuesday will discuss possibly placing a measure on the November ballot that would raise the city’s Oil Barrel Production Tax a help fund those efforts, according to a memo released Friday.

The measure could also include a question on whether to reinvest future cannabis revenue into economic, health and youth programs in disadvantaged communities.

Long Beach has a long history in oil production and its revenue contributes to the city’s Tidelands and General Fund for services induing public safety, lifeguards and beach maintenance.

The city currently taxes .47 cents per barrel, which includes an annual adjustment according to global supply and demand and other factors outside the city’s control.

For the 2020 fiscal year, the city has projected the price of oil at $55 per barrel, but that figure has been volatile due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of May, the cost of oil was estimated at $30 a barrel, up from $21 in April, but down from $66 for the same time last year. 

In 2019, the city’s Oil Production Tax generated $1.5 million, down from $1.6 million in 2018, according to the city budget.

Oil production generates millions for the so-called Tidelands Operations Fund, which over the years has funded improvements for the Long Beach Convention Center, bike path and Pike Outlets, as well as millions to clean Colorado Lagoon and the coastline.

The funds typically can only be spent along the coast and local waterways, but a ballot measure could give the city leeway to spend in other areas.

Long Beach Beach has the area’s third highest oil production tax rate after Signal Hill and La Habra Heights, according to the city memo.

“Proceeds from these efforts could support programs that expand equity, opportunity, and justice across the City: including a youth investment fund, an economic equity fund, and a health and environmental equity fund,” the memo states.

To place a measure on the November ballot, the City Council would have to approve the initial direction by Tuesday with a final submission no later than Aug. 4.

The meeting takes place via teleconference at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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