- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged support Thursday for a $120 billion proposal to raise taxes to expand rail and highway development in the traffic-choked region.

The Democratic mayor, in an annual speech to City Council members and business and civic leaders, also proposed boosting funding to address the city’s homeless crisis and added his support for a plan under which qualified Los Angeles Unified School District students could receive a free year of community college.

The speech that also focused on economic gains in the city set the stage for Garcetti’s expected re-election bid next year.

Traffic is a daily grind for Angelenos - many freeways are among the most congested in the county. The mayor said that millions of hours are wasted in congestion and it will get worse as the population grows in Los Angeles County.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board has not yet decided whether to move ahead to place the plan on November’s ballot.

It calls for extending subway and rail service, as well as adding new freeway miles and converting some carpool lanes to toll lanes. Los Angeles International Airport would get a direct connection to the existing light rail system.

As part of the plan, two-thirds of voters would have to approve a half-cent tax increase.

“I want to build our future and I want to build it together,” the mayor said, according to a text of his remarks.

Garcetti said his upcoming budget proposal will include $138 million for services for the homeless, whose plight is on display on streets throughout downtown Los Angeles. Earlier promises for a major boost in funding for the homeless have thus far stalled.

“Beyond the extraordinary human toll, keeping people on the streets costs much more than finding them housing,” the mayor said.

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