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Villaraigosa's message to Washington: Spend more

January 18, 2012 |  9:03 am

Antonio Villaraigosa in Dec 2011

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brought an unusual message to a Washington grappling with budget deficits: Spend more.

"Yeah, we’ve got to cut spending. It’s out of control," the mayor told reporters Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "But we’ve also got to make investments. Nobody stops you on the street and says, 'What are you doing about the deficit and the debt? People ask you, 'How are you going to help me get a job?' "

Villaraigosa, in the nation’s capital for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which he heads, gave Congress an "F" for its performance last year, bemoaned the hyper-partisanship in Washington, delivered a pitch for funding high-speed rail and was pessimistic about the prospects of immigration reform in an election year.

Members of Congress, he said, "don’t seem to be focused on issues that people really care about, like jobs."

"It’s not just the Republicans. It’s the Democrats as well,’’ added the mayor, who is a Democrat.

But, he added, Republicans who control the House have been "particularly obstructionist."

Villaraigosa and other mayors are scheduled to meet Wednesday with President Obama at the White House. He offered mixed views of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposals for addressing the state’s budget troubles.

"I’m not as excited as he is about the sales tax," Villaraigosa said. "I think more and more there is interest in really fixing a broken tax system, but if that ends up on the ballot, I certainly understand that we can’t cut our way out of this crisis.... I certainly agree with the governor that we’ve got to make investments too. We can’t just keep on cutting."

"I would have liked to have seen the governor really look at this from a broader and deeper perspective," he added. "I don’t want to just want to put a Band-Aid on the problem."


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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last month in Hollywood. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times