L.A. Hikes Taxes to Fund Jobs Program

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," November 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, tax hikes storming into Los Angeles, the sales tax rising by half-a-percent. And that cash will help pay for a massive jobs program.

Now, the man behind the plan, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is joining me right now.

The — you know, Mayor, this is an interesting development here, because, obviously, people, by and large, agreed with what you are doing. And others in Washington are incentivized by what you're doing. Is this a way for folks to pay for jobs in L.A.?

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Well, it is, but you should know that the state, in balancing its budget, also raised the sales tax, separate and apart from what we have done in Los Angeles County.

In Los Angeles County, last year, in the middle of a recession, working with the business community, working with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, we put on the ballot a half-penny sales tax that would generate about $40 billion over the next 30 years for highway repair and public transit development in L.A. County.

As you know, we're one of the most congested...

CAVUTO: So, Mayor Villaraigosa, this — this tax hike isn't going away; it's staying?

VILLARAIGOSA: Yes, this is — this is a tax hike specifically for the purpose of investing in traffic congestion and air quality and the deterioration of the infrastructure in Los Angeles County.

I was starting to say, we have the — some of the worst traffic in the United States and some of the dirtiest air. And this transportation program will focus on building 12 major transit projects over a 30-year period.

What we are doing is, we're going to Washington with money in our hand, instead of with our hand out, and saying to them, they ought to reward cities and states that are focused on putting their own money up for job creation, for the infrastructure repair and improvement that we need.

CAVUTO: But, Mayor, I guess the obvious question on my part is, is there a lockbox for this money for just those purposes?


CAVUTO: Or could it be used for a variety of other purposes?

VILLARAIGOSA: It can't be..

CAVUTO: Many a state, federal, and local program have — have veered way off course.

VILLARAIGOSA: Yes, they have.

And one of the reasons why the voters voted overwhelmingly, at 67 percent, for this is, there is a lockbox. This money can only be used for transportation. It can only be used for the infrastructure investments that we have been waited for a long time in this county. It took — it took a few years to put a broad coalition together, and even with some opposition. The voters voted overwhelmingly, because this money can only be used for transportation. Now, what we want to do now...


VILLARAIGOSA: ... is to accelerate those projects from 30 years to 10, get the federal government to partner with us. Instead of giving us...

CAVUTO: Sort of like matching funds, right, you want to get.

Mayor, here is what interests me, though. I get the feeling nationally — I'm not just in L.A., but a lot of folks are just being nickeled-and-dimed to death. It doesn't like much when you're talking half-a-percent. But then there are a lot of surtaxes for a lot of folks of all economic stripes.

It's happening federally. It's happening — it had been happening in your state. It slowed down with the proposition's defeat. But my point is that, you know, folks are looking around and saying, man, oh, man, we're being zoomed every which way.

What do you say to that?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, I certainly understand that.

Folks are feeling the pain of this economy. We have a 14 percent unemployment rate in Los Angeles today. Twenty-eight thousand people have lost their homes do to foreclosure. So, this is a jobs bill as well.

And it is one of that the people were willing to invest in. And what we are asking the federal government to do is to partner with us.


VILLARAIGOSA: We're not coming with our hand out without our own resources for this kind of unprecedented infrastructure program. What we are saying is, we want the federal government to help us to put the — these projects going now, accelerate them over a 10-year period, put more than 210,000 people to work.

CAVUTO: Well, I will tell you, Mayor Villaraigosa, you must be — you must be good at what you do, because you're the only guy I know who could get seven out of 10 votes to approve a tax hike. So, God bless. You must be — be gifted at this.


VILLARAIGOSA: Well, actually...

CAVUTO: But a lot of folks are saying, why are you not running for governor? I know you pooh-poohed it earlier, now your name keeps coming back to run for governor.

Where do you stand on that?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, I don't know if I was great at it. I think what people realized was, this was an important investment at this time to create jobs.

CAVUTO: All right. Fine. Fine. But are you going to run for governor? Are you going to run for governor?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, with respect — with respect to governor, I'm not going to run for governor. And I will tell you why. I love being mayor.

Maybe the — it may be strange to some people, but, as mayor of Los Angeles, there are a lot of things to do. We are the second safest big city in the United States of America. We're growing our police department. We're driving down crime. Homicides are down to numbers we haven't seen since 1969. This transportation and jobs program is on our agenda.

So, I want to finish this job. I made a commitment to the people of Los Angeles that we're going to lay a foundation.

CAVUTO: So, if Dianne Feinstein runs — if Dianne Feinstein runs, or doesn't, and Jerry Brown stays in the race and becomes the Democratic nominee, a former governor who campaigns for his — for his new job — old job — and let's say Meg Whitman is the Republican, where do you go?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, I'm going to stay here in Los Angeles as the mayor. I want to finish the job I started.

CAVUTO: Who would you support? You will always support the Democrat, right?

VILLARAIGOSA: I would — I would support Jerry Brown if he was the only candidate in this race, given the others.

CAVUTO: What if he isn't? What if it — what if Feinstein is in there?

VILLARAIGOSA: If Feinstein is in there, obviously, I would have to reconsider. She is a great friend of mine, a great friend of Los Angeles.

CAVUTO: Who do you like more? Who do you like more?

VILLARAIGOSA: You know, I will — I will wait until she decides to get in to make that decision.


CAVUTO: All right, Mayor Villaraigosa, very good having you. Thank you very, very much.

VILLARAIGOSA: Thanks for having me, Neil.

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