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LA mayor: Infrastructure fuels prosperity, and federal government needs to do its part

President Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure blueprint relies on states and local governments, as well as private sector investment, to provide much of the needed funding. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says that his city is doing its part already, and that the federal government needs to step up. Garcetti joins Judy Woodruff to discuss that, as well as protecting “Dreamers.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as Yamiche said, the president's broad infrastructure blueprint does rely on states and local governments to fund much of the money that would be needed for a trillion-dollar-plus plan.

    It also would depend on a major infusion of investment from the private sector. We get some reaction now to all this from the Democratic mayor of the city of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. He's also the chair of a task force on the subject for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

    Mayor Garcetti, thank you very much for joining us.

    So, let me just start out by asking, what's your overall reaction? They are talking about leveraging federal dollars to state and local dollars and the rest of it, something like one to five.

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:

    Well, good evening, Judy.

    And any day that Washington is talking about infrastructure is music to my ears, but, of course, the devil will be in the details. But we have got a yawning $5.4 trillion gap, and we want to get home to our families quicker. We want to cut traffic. We don't want to be on unsafe bridges.

    And we need the next generation of ports and airports to help fuel prosperity in this country. So, since President Trump was elected, American cities have passed $260 billion of infrastructure. This only proposals $200 billion over 10 years.

    There is more money, for instance, in his budget for the wall than there is for the next 10 years for all the cities in America to have transit dollars and to fix their roads, to fix those potholes. So we're doing our part, and we want to see federal government do its part and not just take $20 out of our wallet and give it to themselves, give it back to us, and say, here's your infrastructure money.

    We want it to be real money for real jobs and for real infrastructure repair that this country so badly needs.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know that is important to you and other state and local officials around the country, Mayor Garcetti, but at the same time, the federal government is — has to be focused on the deficit, on how much spending there is.

    We just heard some red ink numbers that are pretty scary. You can't — or can you, I should say, expect the federal government to come up with the lion's share of this money that's needed?

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:

    No, we expect them to do what they have in the past, and think about the Erie Canal, the work the federal government did to help the interstate highway system or to build the Internet.

    These are things that pay back. And when we don't take care of our infrastructure, we pay billions, even trillions of dollars in lost competitiveness, in literally millions of hours we're away from our family, companies that don't start here in the United States because it's too difficult to get through the red tape.

    So this is money that helps bring more money in. And we're not expecting them to have the lion's share, but they actually cut existing programs in some cases to pay for this. And we want to work with Congress, both houses, both parties. We have got Democratic and Republican mayors who are ready to show how what we have been doing and have the federal government can come and help lead.

    But we're going to need that money to be paid for with real dollars. We should have done it with probably the offshoring of those overseas profits — or onshoring of those, rather. But we will keep looking at other alternative ways to get in there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know the federal is also — this administration is also looking to the private sector to come up with some of these dollars. Why isn't that a good idea?

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:

    It can be.

    And we're doing that here in Los Angeles. Denver was able to help the private sector build a new rail line from downtown to the airport quicker and cheaper. But don't expect the private sector to come and to redo water that right now in many cities is polluted or to always upgrade our electricity lines, to build out our port or our airports.

    Those are things that we have to do with federal help. And American cities have a loud and clear message for Washington. We will help. In fact, we're doing more than you are. But we want some of our federal tax dollars back in our communities, from rural communities to our most densely populated urban areas, to match those dollars, as we traditionally have.

    And we both can count those dollars if we do it the right way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mayor Garcetti, another quick point I want to ask about is what the president had to say about streamlining, in effect, the permitting process.

    He said, Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington is now going to be your partner.

    We know that a number of your fellow mayors are saying, hey, it's a good thing that they're talking about streamlining, cutting back on some of the federal regulations. What about that?

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:


    Any day we cut red tape is also music to the ears of America's mayors. And so I think that's a great part of this proposal, if it actually bears out. But we do need to have money to match that.

    We don't want projects to take a decade to move forward, two decades to move forward. We have built some of the greatest infrastructure in this country in a war, in moments of growth in this country in a matter of months or just a year or two.

    We should be able to do that again. So, that part is good. But we need to make sure there is also money to match. Money is what moves projects forward. And we are stepping up, as I said, with a quarter of a trillion from America's cities just in the last year-and-a-half. We need the federal government not to space out $200 billion, which is less than that, over a decade.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mayor Garcetti, I also want to ask you a question about immigration.

    As you know, the Senate, the United States Senate is beginning a major debate tonight on what to do about immigration reform. Among others, the big — one of the big questions being discussed in the Congress is what to do about these young people who were brought into the country without documentation as children and whether they should be given a path citizenship.

    There is something like 700,000 of them, so-called DACA recipients. Right now, people are asking, are Democrats prepared, if Republicans give on that and keep that path to citizenship for these DACA young people, are Democrats, in turn, prepared to give on things like the visa lottery, on so-called — what Republicans call chain migration, letting more family members in, parts of legal immigration?

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:

    My opinion is that we should hold the president and hold Republicans leaders who have said they are for these dreamers to their words, independent of other things.

    I'm the grandson of a dreamer who came to this country when he was 1-year-old fleeing war in Mexico. He volunteered to fight for the only country he knew in World War II and got his citizenship. I'm literally here today.

    I have seen the brilliance of these young men and women. Paul Ryan, of course, the president, they have all said they want to do something. Do that independent.

    And then negotiate the rest of immigration, whether it's border protection, whether it's the type of family reunification we have. That's the place where we can give and take in negotiations.

    But holding the dreamers hostage after people have publicly said and over 80 percent of Americans support giving them a permanent pathway to some legal status, that needs to get done right away.

    People should — I believe, kind of old-fashioned, that people should live up to their word.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're going to watch that debate unfold this week.

    Mayor Garcetti, Mayor Eric Garner, of Los Angeles, thank you very much.

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti:

    Great to be with you, Judy. Thanks.

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