Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed concerns Monday about an initiative that would prevent the state from taking local government funds, even though he previously signed a letter endorsing the proposal now slated as Proposition 22 on the November ballot.
During a Capitol press conference to promote nearly $1 billion in additional local government funds in the Assembly Democratic budget, Speaker John A. Pérez said he opposed the ballot measure because it was an example of ballot-box budgeting that ties the hands of state officials.
Villaraigosa, a former Democratic Assembly speaker, jumped in and said he agreed with that position.
"We are so constrained by initiative, by structural frameworks, that make it very difficult to proceed ahead," Villaraigosa said.
When asked to clarify his position on the initiative, Villaraigosa said, "No, I'm not supporting it, either."
Yet he was one of nine big-city mayors to have signed a letter in March expressing support for the ballot proposal. Proposition 22 would prevent the state from borrowing or taking money from local government accounts, a response to a budget decision last year to borrow $2 billion from local governments and take $1.7 billion from local redevelopment agencies.
When pressed again, Villaraigosa said, "I haven't seen that initiative. I haven't read it. I'm not for governing by initiative, either. I may want to protect local government funding. I've been here a lot. And I'm pretty loud in my advocacy here. You know, I'm not a shrinking violet when it comes to defending my town. But, you know, I'm also not a demagogue."
Villaraigosa press secretary Arielle Goren said in a follow-up phone call that the mayor does support Proposition 22 and that it was "unclear to him that anyone was referring specifically to this measure" during the press conference.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, answers questions from the press as he is joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday, June 28. They were touting the Assembly Democrats' budget proposal. Hector Amezcua / firstname.lastname@example.org