The state Republican Party on sunday voted to oppose Proposition 172, a half-cent sales tax proposal that many local government officials say is needed to avoid deep cutbacks in services.

The tax measure, which appears on November's ballot, is designed to help offset a controversial property tax shift in the 1994 state budget act. The shift requires localities to transfer $2.6 billion of property tax revenues to schools to help balance the state budget.

Voters will be asked whether the sales tax increase should be permanently extended. The increase was put in place in 1991 on a temporary basis and is scheduled to expire at the end of December. Permanent extension would provide an extra $712 million for counties and cities this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The money would have to be earmarked for public safety activities.

The Republicans, who met this weekend for the state party's semiannual convention, were swayed by arguments that the party needs to make a clear stand for lower taxes.

Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, and the Democrat-controlled Legislature approved the Proposition 172 ballot plan this summer as part of an effort to cope with severe fiscal troubles.

In a speech at the convention, Wilson said the measure would be an important boost for law enforcement.

The tax extension has widespread support so far among the broader electorate, according to recent statewide polls.

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