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Villaraigosa urges 'fiscal cliff' solution, defends Fix the Debt

December 6, 2012 | 11:03 am

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Sept.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a bipartisan deal to avoid the automatic budget cuts and tax hikes that threaten to push the U.S. economy off the so-called fiscal cliff. During an appearance on CNN Thursday morning, the mayor also defended taking a leadership role in the Fix the Debt lobbying group, which has come under fire from some on the political left.

In a five-minute discussion with news anchor Ashleigh Banfield, the L.A. mayor said he was confident that President Obama and the GOP leadership would be able to strike an agreement and avoid sparking a new recession.

"Both sides understand that it's not in the nation's best interest for us to go off this cliff," Villaraigosa said. "People are tired of the partisanship, they want both sides to work together."

Villaraigosa went on to defend his new leadership role with the Fix the Debt committee, a position that has drawn fire from some on the left and prompted an online petition demanding he resign from the group.

The mayor announced Tuesday that he was joining the steering committee of the Fix the Debt campaign, a national bipartisan lobbying group that has proposed potential solutions to the national debt. 

While he became the first Democrat in office to join the campaign, the group has earned the support of a coalition of former Democratic officials -- including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen -- in addition to Republicans.

As of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 11,000 people have signed an online petition demanding Villaraigosa step down from the Fix the Debt campaign -- echoing concerns that the group favors an unjust mixture of corporate tax cuts and entitlement program cuts.

Petition organizers take issue with two of the campaign's major proposals -- the creation of a "territorial tax system" that would exempt companies from taxes on money the make overseas, and major cuts to Social Security.

"The mayor is now in corporate pockets,” Angela Garcia Combs, the 50-year-old Hollywood resident who began the petition, said in an interview Wednesday. “We Angelenos voted him in. He can’t have us vote him in and knock on doors for him and then go join a group that wants to cut Social Security.”

When asked about the opposition to his alignment with the lobbying group, the mayor stressed the need to compromise and reach across party lines, echoing his many previous calls for a "radical middle" philosophy for solving the nation's economic woes.

"I am a Democrat and a progressive, but you know what? The country is evenly divided. They won too," Villaraigosa said. "We've got to work together."

He later added: "The problem is that Democrats just talk to Democrats and Republicans with Republicans.... That's what's broken with politics right now. Too many people polarized and too many people addicted to their ideologies and orthodoxies."

The mayor stressed that spending cuts could not be the sole solution to solving the nation's debt, and said that some Republicans will have to moderate their stances on entitlement cuts in order to reach a deal.

"There are a small group of people, I think primarily on the right, who don't understand that we're not going to do this by cutting and cutting and cutting," he said. "We're going to have to invest and we're going to have to make sure that we have revenues."

Combs said Villaraigosa's alignment with the campaign and calls for bipartisanship are no more than political positioning for a future run for office, but added that she believes his association with the lobbying group will backfire.

“Nobody is going to believe that he’s for the working people if he’s trying to fix the debt on their backs and through their Social Security and with their money,” she said.

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-- Wesley Lowery at Los Angeles City Hall

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in September. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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