2018 Update: Tony V Looks for Life After L.A.


L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who flirted with and ditched a run for governor in 2010, threw himself back into the center of California politics Tuesday, proposing to close Proposition 13’s gaping corporate loophole and limit its controls on property taxes to residential homeowners.

“Progressives have to start thinking – and acting – big again,” he said in a speech to the Sacramento Press Club that Tony V’s people promoted as the Next Big Thing.

Former Assembly Speaker Villaraigosa, who will be termed out of the mayor’s office in 2013, also called for employment tax credits for businesses, eliminating the corporate income tax, extending sales taxes to services and giving school districts and local governments power to raise property taxes by majority vote.

While the speech had all the trappings of a bold leap by the lame-duck mayor into statewide politics, there was nothing in it that was new to those in Sacramento and around the state who have worked on crafting solutions to California’s fiscal quagmire.

Still, by taking a stand on the so-called “split roll,” Villaraigosa has grabbed hold of an incendiary political issue with verve and abandon unseen by other potential statewide contenders like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom or Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The mayor cast his proposals as a challenge to fellow Democrat, Gov. Jerry Brown. “We will fail if we think small,” he said. “Gov. 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. . . (which) was never intended to be a corporate tax give-away.”

But Brown’s advisers sounded remarkably unchallenged. “We always appreciate hearing from local government officials and I’m sure the governor will be happy to review some of these ideas,” said Brown spokesman Gil Duran.

“The test is not whether it’s a positive reform but whether it’s politically viable in an election,” added Brown adviser Steve Glazer, noting that in addition to Prop 13 reforms, people have floated an oil severance tax, increased cigarette taxes and other ideas.

The problem in Sacramento has not been a lack of ideas for a “grand bargain,” as Tony V put it. The problem has been an unwillingness by Republicans, who control just enough votes in the Legislature to throttle tax legislation, to compromise on any financial issue of substance.

Villaraigosa’s speech, which was distributed to reporters in advance of his noontime appearance, also blasted the conservative movement nationally, arguing “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.

“We have to break the mindset that has dominated our budget debates in both Washington and here in Sacramento. We have to be willing to press the case that the way you build wealth is by investing,” he said. “And, yes, that means making a case for new revenue to sustain long-term investment.”

The idea of a “split roll,” whereby commercial and business properties would no longer enjoy the special treatment that Proposition 13 intended for homeowners, has been widely studied. As Calbuzz reported back in June:

A little-noticed, but extremely important 2010 study by the California Tax Reform Association provides hard evidence of how much Prop. 13 has benefited those who own and operate commercial property – bank and other office buildings, shopping malls and industrial parks, for example – at the expense of homeowners.

Sure, the tax group is packed to the rafters with bleeding hearts, but their extremely detailed report on this matter is based squarely on the most neutral, bottom line information available from the Board of Equalization and assessors around the state.

And those numbers show that in 55 of 58 California’s counties, there has been a significant shift in the proportion of local property taxes paid over the past 30+ years, to the substantial detriment of those single family homeowners whom Prop. 13 absolutists just love to demagogue are the biggest beneficiaries of their iconic tax cut.

Whether or not Villaraigosa decides to run statewide in the future may now hinge on whether he can do something other than call on someone else to lead the charge on Proposition 13 and other tax reforms. Having seized the issue, the question will be whether he can marshal the forces, political and financial, to make something happen.

Otherwise, nice speech on a slow news day.

Don’t rain on our parade: Crybaby state Republicans are weeping into their Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck about California’s  newly redrawn political landscape, threatening a sour grapes referendum campaign to undo a redistricting plan that accurately reflects the ever-declining influence of their cuckoo ideology, rather than putting forth some ideas that actual people might, you know, actually agree with.

But as the Fleischman-Del Baccaro apparatchik axis, doing their best imitation of those holdout Japanese soldiers found hiding in caves 30 years after the end of WWII, specifically target the redone senate maps, candidates in at least one of the new, at-issue districts are already running around the track, raising money, plotting strategy and gathering endorsements.

The nascent campaign in the 19th Senate District, which runs between Santa Maria and Camarillo in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, has already attracted two all-in Democratic candidates, with a popular local Republican, hoping to take advantage of the state’s new jungle primary system, quietly rounding up support in the background.

Former Assembly member Hannah Beth Jackson has declared her intention to run, with a formal announcement planned for next month, while Jason Hodge, the well-connected political director of the Ventura County firefighter’s association, and the fiancée of Assembly member Fiona Ma, D-S.F., is already out on the trail.

The prospect of a Demo-a-Demo free-for-all has former SB Supervisor and longtime GOP operative Mike Stoker, who told us he’s “90 percent certain I’m running,” energetically calculating his chances. Although the new district has a 12-point Democratic advantage, Stoker has run well in the past among decline-to-state voters on the Central Coast: he got walloped by Assemblyman Das Williams in the 35th AD last fall, but ran 14 points ahead of Republican registration in the Democrat-gerrymandered district.

Another player in the mix is Pedro Nava, Williams’ predecessor in the Assembly seat, which represents a big chunk of the new 19th SD. Nava’s playing Hamlet, saying he’s still weighing options, but acknowledges he needs to move quickly if he’s getting in; were we gambling types, we’d bet he passes and strongly endorses Hodge, given the longstanding enmity between him and the Jackson/Williams team.

(Local gossip: Williams got his start in politics working as an aide to then-Assembly person Jackson; when Nava was about to term out, Williams, then a Santa Barbara city councilman, told Nava he’d back coastal advocate Susan Jordan, who happens to be married to Nava, for the seat, then changed his mind on a pretext and proceeded to bash Jordan’s brains out in the Democratic primary. Talk about your don’t-invite-’ems).

In any case, all the talk about redistricting lawsuits and referenda so far isn’t doing much to slow down the early elbowing, at least in the American Riviera. 

Are they evil, lazy or merely stupid? The shameful spectacle of the national MSM systematically freezing out Ron Paul from its Iowa Republican campaign coverage is enough to make a hog puke.

Here’s a guy whose long-held economic views, no matter what you think of them, are now embraced by a vast swath of the Republican electorate, not to mention every candidate in the GOP race, who comes within less than a point of beating straw poll winner Michele Bachmann, then instantly disappears into a Bermuda Triangle of non-coverage, while total stiffs like Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum – Rick Santorum! – keep getting treated oh-so-respectfully as serious candidates. And don’t tell us the Iowa straw poll is meaningless – of course it’s meaningless!  — so then why are the nets and cable-bots gushing and drooling all over looney tunes Michele?

Kudos to Roger Simon for blowing the whistle on this disgrace  and high fives to Jon Stewart for calling out the Fox News phonies who perpetrate this fraud.

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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    I’m not sure I consider Rick Santorum a serious human being, let alone a serious candidate. Though I will say one thing for him: At least he had the sense to stay away from the corn dogs. He’s done enough damage to his campaign with his mouth already.

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Oh, and I sure wish some intrepid reporter had asked the mayor how cutting corporate income taxes improves California’s financial picture. I haven’t done the math, so taken together, the plan could still be a net gain. But that suggestion seems to be somewhat at loggerheads from his other proposals: adding sales taxes to services and doing a split roll for property taxes. If his argument is that it will attract businesses to California, those others seem like they’ll conflict with that as well. Nor did I see anything in your description about an oil extraction tax, which most states charge and seems a no-brainer to most of us who don’t own oil companies.

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