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5 things to know about former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plans for California

Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addresses delegates on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention.
Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addresses delegates on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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Antonio Villaraigosa joined AirTalk's gubernatorial race series, and the former mayor of Los Angeles has big plans for the position, should he win in 2018.

Villaraigosa served as L.A.'s mayor eight years, from 2005 to 2013. His biggest challenge may have been leading the city during the 2007-2008 global financial crisis and asking for concessions from public unions for raises that had been promised before the recession. He also championed Measure R, a 2008 transportation package that helped fund the city's transit system. Prior to his two terms as mayor, Villaraigosa was speaker of the state Assembly, from 1998 to 2000.

His plans as governor include expanding the middle class and improving education.

Larry and listeners asked Villaraigosa questions about his plans for California. Here are five topics the candidate addressed:

1. On juggling fiscal responsibility and fitting into a largely Democratic legislature:

The same way I fit into Los Angeles when we stared bankruptcy in the face. The governor has to be the [one] to say, "we can't do all of that." . . . So we have to prioritize. I did that as mayor [of L.A.] and will have to do that as governor as well.

2. On potential statewide single-payer health care in isolation from the rest of the country:

I've had discussions with a broad cross-section of leaders in the health care community, and there's not unanimity on whether you can do that. As you know, you need federal waivers to do that, and we're not going to be able to get them from [President Trump's] administration. Let's first focus on backfilling, on making sure we're keeping people whole from [proposed health care budget] cuts. Then let's put a group of stakeholders together and look at how we can transition to a health care system that is smarter and better and could include single-payer. 

3. On the growing pension and retirement health care costs, and what that means for taxpayers:

It can't [fall on private citizens]. We're going to have to look at the issue of a more sustainable pension system. I can support defined benefits, but we're gonna have to redefine the scope and what people contribute to it. It's basic math. 

4. On dealing with homelessness:

I think the state needs to step in. It's not enough for Sacramento to say "it's your problem." And I'm looking at a state housing and transportation fund that would leverage what cities and counties are doing around homelessness and housing affordability overall. The state needs to do what I did when I was mayor. I wasn't content with having passed a half-penny sales tax to generate $40 billion over 30 years and rebuild our public transportation system. I said, "Let's leverage that with the federal government at a time of high deficits and debt and have them incentivize cities like ours with low-cost loans and bonds." The state needs to replicate that. Tools for an economic development bank would help us do more with affordable housing, and particularly where it's connected to transportation corridors.

5. On the bullet train project:

I'm for it. But I'm for it because we have to leverage it for economic development, much like we've done here with public transportation throughout the city. By building downtown, Hollywood, Century City, along the Wilshire Corridor, we can leverage high-speed rail for economic development and housing in the Central Valley and throughout the state. 

To see all our past interviews with the 2018 gubernatorial candidates, click here.

Note: this interview has been edited for clarity.


Antonio Villaraigosa, former L.A. Mayor (2005-2013) and former state Assembly speaker (1998-2000); he is running for governor of California in 2018