11/12/2012 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Antonio Villaraigosa Endorses Half-Cent Sales Tax, But Has Conditions

As the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to consider a half-cent sales tax increase for the March 5 ballot on Tuesday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday his support of the measure is contingent on receiving a commitment for other cost-saving measures.

In a letter to the council, Villaraigosa said the more than $200 million that would be generated by the sales tax would be welcome but the city must continue with other steps -- including the layoff of 209 workers from this year's budget, public-private partnerships for the Zoo and Convention Center, consolidation of street maintenance programs and other steps.

"If we are going to ask the people of Los Angeles to vote for higher taxes, we must continue to cut spending, spur job creation, protect public safety and maintain fiscal discipline," Villaraigosa said in the letter.

Other steps he wants to see taken are pledges of support to keep the Los Angeles Police Department at its current size and creation of a new economic development program.

The mayor said the state's voters showed with Proposition 30 that they are willing to tax themselves for programs they consider valuable.

"Thus far the City of Los Angeles has relied primarily on permanent and one-time spending cuts rather than new revenue to balance the budget," Villaraigosa said.

"We have drastically reduced the size of the General Fund civilian workforce by one-third through the elimination of over 5,000 positions.

A number of City agencies have been eliminated or consolidated."

The mayor said other changes include higher contributions to pensions by city workers, a new pension tier for new hires and other changes.

With all the cuts made, Villaraigosa said the city "cannot lose sight of the urgent and ongoing need to follow through with necessary cost-cutting actions, public-private partnership initiatives, and municipal efficiency efforts."

The mayor said he will not decide on whether to lend his support to a campaign for the measure until after he sees what the full City Council does. He will have 10 days after it is approved to sign it to send to the ballot, veto it or allow it to go to the ballot without his signature.

With City Hall closed for Veterans Day, City Council President Herb Wesson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Wesson has been the prime proponent of the sales tax measure, which will need a simple majority for approval, over other tax proposals, which include a tiered increase in the documentary transfer tax, a hike in the parking occupancy tax and a $39 a year parcel tax to support parks programs.

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