In what could be an initial foray into statewide politics, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Tuesday for a renewal of progressive politics in California in the nation, including an overhaul of the state's iconic limit on property taxes, Proposition 13.
"Progressives have to start thinking - and acting - big again," Villaraigosa declared in prepared remarks for the Sacramento Press Club, to counteract anti-tax and anti-government drives by the Tea Party and other conservative blocs.
"If the Tea Party in Washington and their counterparts here in Sacramento are intent on pitching jobs overboard in the mindless pursuit of ideology over country, we have to be willing to stand and defend our people," Villaraigosa said, adding, "And yes, that means making a case for new revenue to sustain long-term investment."
Villaraigosa was particularly critical of the spending cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature's Democrats made to balance the state budget after their efforts to extend some state taxes were rejected by Republicans. Those cuts, he said, will damage California's ability to educate its children and remain economically competitive.
"Governor Brown, I say we need to have the courage to test the voltage in some of these so-called 'third-rail' issues, beginning with Proposition 13," Villaraigosa told the press club. "We need to strengthen Proposition 13 and get it back to the original idea of protecting homeowners, Proposition 13 was never intended to be a corporate tax giveaway but that is what is has become."
Some Democrats have backed changes in Proposition 13 that would remove, or at least modify, its protections for business property, but Brown has not signed onto that drive. He was governor when Proposition 13 passed in 1978 and although he opposed it prior to the election, after its passage he declared himself to be a "born-again tax cutter" and became a champion of state tax cuts and spending limits.
Villaraigosa, a former speaker of the state Assembly, was elected Los Angeles mayor in 2005 but must give up the office when his second term expires in 2013. That would free him to run for governor or other statewide office in 2014 - or the U.S. Senate in 2012 if Sen. Dianne Feinstein decides not to seek re-election.
Brown has not declared whether, having been re-elected to the governorship in 2010, he will seek another term in 2014, replying to questions about his intentions cryptically. Were he not to run, there would be a flock of Democrats waiting to succeed him in what has become a strongly Democratic state, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and perhaps Controller John Chiang.