US & World

Villaraigosa pitches transit needs at White House meeting

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outside the White House, Oct. 11, 2010.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outside the White House, Oct. 11, 2010.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined other big city mayors and governors at the White House this morning to talk transportation with President Obama.

President Obama invited governors and mayors to the White House today to lobby their support for a $50 billion infrastructure bill. So does the measure have anything in it for L.A. County? Villaraigosa says there’s nothing currently that has L.A.’s name written on it.

"But that’s my job. I’m gonna make sure that we do as much as possible to write our name on that bill. And the best way to do it is to have money on the table, projects ready to go, and we do in the city of Los Angeles."

That led Villaraigosa to pitch his "30/10" proposal. It would build $13 billion in transit projects in 10 years instead of the 30 it would take to raise the money from L.A. County’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax.

For more than a year, Villaraigosa has been knocking on doors in Washington, trying to convince anyone who’ll listen that his proposal is a good idea. He says all his “30/10” plan needs are federal loans, loan guarantees or bonds.

In his White House meeting, the mayor says he jumped on a phrase used by the president, to “leverage federal dollars” and focus on “the smartest investments.”

"One of the things that I said to the president was that in a world of historic deficits and debt, with limited amount of money, the best way to get that leverage is to expand the current programs that we have."

Villaraigosa says he tried to dissuade the President from creating a new infrastructure bank. He says it’s better to let transit agencies issue the same kind of bonds that school district use to raise money for new buildings.