AirTalk for April 19, 2012

Mayor Villaraigosa on the state of Los Angeles

Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered his "State of the City" address Wednesday with optimism.

Today on the show, Mayor Villaraigosa said that he will propose "hundreds" of layoffs in tomorrow's budget announcement. The mayor had previously said that "a large number of employees" would be laid off under his new budget proposal, but declined to give a more specific estimate.

"I'd just say in the hundreds. We'll be eliminating a lot of positions as well. We've had managed hiring, and we had to fund certain positions, but we haven't filled them over the last few years, so we're going to eliminate those positions," said Villaraigosa. "We're going to be a much leaner government. Not because we wanted to, but because we've been in the worst budget crisis in our city's history, since the 1930s. Just as the state has and just as the federal government has and as city's have across the country."

In addition, Villaraigosa stated he will ask voters to extend Measure R, 2008’s half-penny sales tax, which is set to expire in 2039. With an extension on the tax, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will have future revenue to bond against, thus allowing for highway improvements, transit construction and the creation of 410,000 new jobs.

By simply creating the tax in 2008, the city was able to double the size of its rail system, and several projects currently on the table would be accelerated, in some cases by nearly two decades.

He also stressed his continued support of America Fast Forward, a program he is trying to get the US House of Representatives to pass. The legislation would install a national transportation loan program which would provide flexible, low-interest loans from the federal government for road and rail projects that are locally funded. The plan has support from 188 mayors, the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce, and it has passed in the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 74-22.

Interview Highlights

On why he wants to accelerate transit projects:
"A couple of months after we passed Measure R ... I remember a woman coming up to me at a town hall and said Mayor, where's your subway? We passed Measure R, we gave you the money.' And I said, 'Ma'am, this is a half-penny sales tax, not a ten cent sales tax.' ... in other words, we don't get that 40 mill in the first year; we get it over a 30-year period of time. But it gave me the idea .... we should try to figure out a way to accelerate it.

We developed the 30/10 plan, which is now 'America Fast Forward.' It is in both the house and senate version of the transportation bill. It would expand the tip of the program from 128 million to a billion dollars, and would allow us to loan from the federal government and accelerate our projects, creating 152 thousand jobs here in L.A. in next decade.

We just heard today that both the subway and the regional connector are going to be in next year's budget (the Senate marked it up today). This will allow us to accelerate these programs and create jobs now."

On extending Measure R:
"If we were just to eliminate the sunset on measure R, do nothing else... not raise the half-penny sales tax – we can bond against that money and accelerate our programs with very little help.

You can't tell people like me 'You've got to make job number one job creation,' and then when we put proposals like accelerating these projects, that 'Hey, we shouldn't do it.' Yes, there are some issues relating to out-year expenditures. But the fact is, this will allow us to double the size of the rail system and now.

In a couple of days, we'll be opening up the exposition line phase one to Culver City. In June, we'll open up the extension from Woodland Hills to Chatsworth of the Orange Line. We're in construction right now for the extension of the gold line to Azusa. We're in construction for phase two of the exposition line from Culver City to Santa Monica. We're going to break ground on the Crenshaw line. Look, we've got to build this transit system, this is a great way to do it, and yes we're going to ask the voters if they agree.

There were a lot of naysayers then, but now everybody is extolling Measure R.

On how its not a tax increase
"It's not a tax increase, it's an extension. It's an elimination of the sunset. We've done a poll on this; it does not impact or hurt in any way the other tax initiatives, because people understand very clearly— all it is is an extension from 2039 indefinitely until the people change it. I'm duty-bound to focus on job creation. I'm not waiting on Washington. Yes, we're hoping that Washington will pass this bill, I think they will. I think America Fast Forward will be in it, but we're not waiting on them.

On whether the subway and connector plans will get funding:
"It's never definite. But that's why I go to Washington, that's why I'm knocking on these doors. That's why... I've made this issue of infrastructure such a big part of city's agenda, not just our city's agenda. These used to be bi-partisan issues – investing in transportation and infrastructure. The fact is, job creation is job number one for us... Cities like ours are congested and gridlocked and we need to expand our public transportation systems. The fact that it's in I think is a reflection of all the hard work that we've engaged in over the last two years."

On his proposed budget:
"It will be a balanced budget. It will be a prudent and responsible budget. It will be a budget that includes layoffs. It will be a budget that asks our employees and our city council to change our retirement system to reflect the fact that we're living a lot longer. It will be a budget that has almost two-thirds in structural cuts, not just one time cuts.

You have a deficit because revenues are down. That is why I'm proposing pension reform. Civilian city employees, if they're on Kaiser, their family pays zero. Are we're asking is pay 10 percent. We're not asking for radical contributions here, we're just saying you've got to pay more for your health care at a time when you're paying zero."

On the number of layoffs he's proposing:
"I'd just say in the hundreds. We'll be eliminating a lot of positions as well. We've had managed hiring, and we had to fund certain positions, but we haven't filled them over the last few years, so we're going to eliminate those positions. We're going to be a much leaner government. Not because we wanted to, but because we've been in the worst budget crisis in our city's history, since the 1930's. Just as the state has and just as the federal government has and as city's have across the country."

Weigh In:


What can Mayor Villaraigosa do to make this proposed law a reality? What projects exactly would such loans be used for? If Measure R becomes permanent, what advances will Los Angeles see in transportation? How will it affect the timetables of specific rail or road plans? What other issues did Villaraigosa address?

Guest:

Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor, City of Los Angeles


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