Antonio's Federal Bailout Plan for L.A.

Mayor meets with Obama as part of economic policy transition team

Joining a lot of heavyweights today for a meeting on the economy with President-elect Obama, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could get a better reception than usual for his oft-made pitch for more federal money for the cities.

Moving swiftly to develop a strategy to deal with the nation's No. 1 issue, Obama has assembled an Transition Economic Advisory Board that includes Warren Buffett, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Citigroup's Robert Rubin, top executives of Xerox, Time-Warner and Hyatt hotels plus Paul Volcker, Robert Reich, Lawrence Summers, Laura Tyson and others with top political and economic credentials.

They are meeting in Chicago this morning and the President-elect is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. PST.

Villaraigosa could find more receptive ears in this group for his play for more federal money than he has had leading political-business delegations to Washington and as a leader in the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The circumstances are far different with the economy in serious trouble and Obama looking for a stimulus strategy to turn things around.

Given the public's lack of confidence in the economy, tax cuts or rebates -- traditional techniques to get people spending again -- likely would go straight into back accounts or to pay off debt.

And public works projects -- such as federal support of rail projects like those envisioned by the MTA now armed with Measure R funds -- take too long to get moving.

So talk, especially in some Democratic circles, is turning to pumping money directly to cities and states  -- L.A. and California and many others that are facing massive deficits that will force layoffs in the public sector, higher taxes and an increased demand for welfare, health care and other services.

California is facing an $11.2 billion shortfall in revenue and some predictions say it could double when the soaring demands for public services is accounted for in January. L.A.'s deficit is at $110 million and rising and the city likely will need $500 million to pay its bills next year.

As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ "Poverty, Work and Opportunity Task Force," Villaraigosa has urged Washington to revise the formula for calculating the federal poverty line -- the basis of federal funding housing, transportation, health care and child care programs.

“Adopting a new poverty measure is critical to more realistically gauge the costs of living for the most vulnerable members of society,” he told a national conference in L.A. in September.

The cost to local communities and states due to illegal immigration is another area that the mayor can argue should be borne by the federal government.

Federal aid also could be expanded for public works projects already under way like the Expo Light Rail Line which would free up money already allocated by local agencies and help relieve budget pressure.

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