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Antonio Villaraigosa Says 'The Economy's Not Working For Too Many People'

Former Los Angeles Mayor and California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa is pictured in this undated photo.
Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio
Former Los Angeles Mayor and California gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa is pictured in this undated photo.
Antonio Villaraigosa Says 'The Economy's Not Working For Too Many People'
Antonio Villaraigosa Says 'The Economy's Not Working For Too Many People' GUEST:Antonio Villaraigosa, public policy advisor

Is the speaker of the California assembly in the late 1990s, Antonio Villarigosa fought for liberal goals on issues from healthcare to guns. As mayor of Los Angeles during the great recession, he battled labor unions on education, furloughs, pensions. Now he is campaigning on's a pro-business progressive. Polls suggest he is among several candidates jockeying for second place in tomorrow's primary. Been that learners -- Ben Adler rounds out his interviews with the question for Antonio Villarigosa why does he think he's the best governor for California . >> I was speaking to the state assembly in the Mayor of Los Angeles. I brought people together in the California state legislature to pass the largest school bond in U.S. history a $9.2 billion effort to rebuild and modernize our schools. And the author of healthy families, 750,000 kids got healthcare. The author of the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation at the time. I worked to bring people together to get things done. As mayor, while I was mayor, as you know violent crime went down 49%, Homicides 45%, there were one out of three failing schools when I became mayor. We took that to one out of 10. Number one American city in reducing carbon emissions. We are the only city to get completely off of coal. I was focused for the rail lines in the busway. I was focused on the job. I did that in the middle of a recession. In the middle of a recession facing a bankruptcy. We had to make tough calls. Hundred million dollars in housing trust that leverage more than $1 billion to build units for housing. We got the Golden State the only state with its own during the California dream. We have to restore the luster of that dream. We have to rebuild again. With the rebuilder roads, highways, schools. I think on the candidate to do that given the experience over the 20 years I have been in public service. >> Reporter: You mentioned your time as mayor of Los Angeles. You drew a fair amount of criticism particularly from one of your rivals in this campaign on how you ran the city's budget while you were mayor. You were accused of leaving the city with a $600 million deficit when he left office. >> When I left, we left with about $128 million deficit. We cut nearly $1 billion from a deficit. We did it because we had to make the tough calls. I had to furlough people. Not the three days a year they did in Sacramento. I did 40 days a year furloughing with temporary layoffs. I didn't run on that. Many people knew I had the support of labor. I did that because I had too. That six number that they got that is not true. The fact is, we cut that deficit and I'm proud of it. >> Reporter: You talked about the need to address the housing crisis, homeless crisis, and many other issues that cost money, infrastructure as well. How will you get that money? >> People have asked that. Again, you asked why me. In the middle of a recession come I went to the people of Los Angeles and I said let's work together to make the investments we need to will -- that will pay the dividends we need down the line. We generated $40 billion over a 30 year period of time and built the lines in the busway as I remember. More than any city in the United States, I've got a record of building infrastructure, record second to none. >> Reporter: You are billing yourself in this race as the Democrat that is fiscally moderate. You did mention you raised taxes with voter approval sales tax, Jerry Brown did the same thing. They have been extended and will not expire anytime soon. What is your decision on the further tax increase in California to set -- fund of some of the things you're talking about. >> I happen to be a progressive who believes you have to pay your bills and balance your budget. You cannot spend more than you have. When people are asking me if that is conservative, liberal, moderate, I have said it is responsible. I think that is what people are looking for. I will tell you that I have a great deal of respect for Jerry Brown. He took us from historic deficits to historic surpluses. Yes, he raised taxes in a really tough time when we were in historic deficits. I know him. He also said no to a lot of misspending. I think that is the balance you want. >> Reporter: You came out in opposition to single-payer health care. The only prominent Democrat in the governors race to do so. You compared it to snake or -- oil. A lot of Democrats supported. >> I'm not against the single-payer concept, what I said was selling snake oil was SB 562 which was the single-payer proposal that passed out of the Senate and got killed in the assembly because all it was wasn't enunciation of Governor -- government supplied healthcare with no plan to get there. it would've doubled our taxes and required waivers from Trump. Everybody on and employer insured healthcare plan, people with a PPO, Kaiser, would be off, with no plan to do something else. I think that is snake oil. My job is to protect the 2 to 5 million people who could lose their healthcare to expand access to healthcare and deal with very low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates that is a big reason impediment to access. To look at focus a lot more on prevention and primary care. I am training enough doctors and medical professionals so that we have more access throughout the state. I'm addressing a broken drug formulary. I think that is what people are looking for. >> Reporter: Another source of tension in the campaign is the relationship you have with teachers unions. Much of California organize labor as a whole for that matter. It stems from when you were mayor and sought to take over the leadership of the city school system. There is an outside group run by the statewide charter school Association that is raising millions of dollars in running ads. The unions are working hard to defeat you. They do not agree with the beliefs of Bessie divorce. What is your response? >> It is laughable to compare me against Betsy divorce. I think she is Enick ROSAMOND opposite of everything I've ever been about. I never wanted to take on the teachers union. When I became mayor, one out of three schools were failing. Out of 700+ schools, only 89 were succeeding. I challenged a broken school district. A school district that was filling too many kids. We work together to take this as I said from one out of three to one out of 10 failing schools from my 44% graduation rate to a 72% graduation. We also increase the number of charters. What I said is I am for great cook public schools. -- Public schools. I think we need to be open to innovation and best practices. I want to work with our unions. I also want to protect the public interest. We know that schools need to perform better in the state. We cannot for generations fail for kids in the way that we are and not say that we have to do a better job. ?

Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa is campaigning as a pro-business progressive who will work to "restore the luster of the California Dream." The former Los Angeles mayor and state Assembly speaker said he'll give voice to Californians who often go unheard in Sacramento, such as Central Valley residents, Latinos and moderates.