Good news in this year’s state budget!

July 8, 2022

What a patriotic experience at last Monday’s Independence Day parade in Rancho Santa Fe! The mood on this sunny day was jubilant and celebratory, despite some very disturbing events elsewhere.

This increasingly common juxtaposition of festivity and tragedy underscores a truth that has been with us since our nation’s founding – our ideals represent our highest aspirations and our joint project of becoming that “more perfect union” is ongoing. 

I hope you had a safe and fun holiday weekend.

Celebrating our nation’s 246th birthday

A sense of goodwill and harmony was in the air as our campaign was joined by dozens of volunteers and supporters who came out to walk with us in the July 4 Parade! (Photo by Scott Chatfield.)

New state budget brings improvements

Governor Newsom signed into law the largest budget ever in California history, along with a series of budget “trailer bills,” which are essentially mini-addendums to the budget.

As a mayor, I know the importance of balancing budgets and planning for the future, which is why I’m glad to see our state budget in better shape than ever before, with a surplus of $97 billion! Budgets are, by nature, the result of compromises, so naturally there are things to like about it and things that could be improved upon.

One thing I’m very excited about is the emphasis on education in this year’s budget. Local school districts will see increased funding for school transportation, transitional kindergarten for four year-olds, and other investments.

As childcare and transportation costs continue to be major expenses for families, the expansion of the public school day for four-year-olds and funding for busing to school is a major benefit for families.

Middle-class rebate to battle the sting of inflation

Speaking of our historic budget surplus, Democrats and Republicans agree that using some of it to help families hit hard by inflation is an urgent priority. There’s an obvious need to help those struggling to pay for basic necessities like groceries and gas.

Figuring out exactly who should get relief and how much is the hard part. The final deal they settled on was a middle-class rebate of up to $1,050.

According to Bloomberg Law,

“Individuals making as much as $75,000 a year, or joint filers making up to $150,000, would get $350 each plus $350 for one dependent for a maximum of $1,050.

“Those with income up to $125,000, or $250,000 filing jointly, would get $250 each plus another $250 for one dependent for a maximum of $750.

“Those earning more than $250,000, or $500,000 filing jointly, would get $200 each plus $200 for one dependent for maximum of $600.”

There’s always the worry that too much assistance could worsen inflation, which makes it a difficult balancing act. But the reality is that this assistance is necessary for thousands of families – so this rebate is very good news!

Del Mar bluff railroad relocation funding

Another very welcome budget item was $300 million for SANDAG to relocate the Del Mar bluff railroad tracks into a tunnel, something SANDAG has consistently been advocating for. There’s still much work to be done on this front, but relocating the train tracks into a tunnel away from the crumbling bluff is vital for our entire region.

The LOSSAN rail corridor, which connects San Diego to Los Angeles, is the second-busiest rail corridor in the entire nation, based on number of passengers. It’s also strategically critical in terms of national security due to it connecting Camp Pendleton to the Port of San Diego.

This funding is a great start to fund environmental review and design work to solve a very difficult problem that affects not just San Diego County, but every community in Southern California.

I am so grateful for the hard work of SANDAG staff, as well as the entire San Diego delegation and especially state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins for putting this large amount of money into the state budget for SANDAG.

The next step is for us to work with our congressional delegation to position ourselves for the federal infrastructure money to build the project. We’re already communicating with Congressman Mike Levin and others about it. 

Financial watchdog to monitor high speed rail project

As part of a compromise between high-speed rail advocates and proponents of other projects, the Legislature allocated $4.2 billion to finish the first section of the California High-Speed Rail, which will eventually connect the entire state.

Part of the deal was also the creation of an independent inspector general’s office with wide-ranging powers to audit the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This is a responsible step to protect the taxpayers and help ensure that the ambitious project stays within its current budget.

I believe we need to make passenger rail service competitive with airlines, and with driving – and high-speed rail is a critical component. Traveling in other countries with advanced rail systems makes it clear how successful train travel can be when the investments have been made to build the system. 

I’m also pleased that additional funds will be made available to other critical projects, such as the electrification of existing passenger rail services throughout the state.

Beacon’s Beach re-opens in time for summer!

It’s so great to be able to visit one of our favorite beaches again! It didn’t take long for the word about the Beacon’s reopening to get around on June 30 – within a few hours, families and surfers were back in force. (Photo by Scott Chatfield.)

A bluff slide in early May damaged the trail used to access Beacon’s Beach, a beloved Leucadia landmark and recreational hotspot. To keep beachgoers safe, Encinitas city staff made the difficult but prudent decision to close off the area until the extent of the damage was studied.

After the city and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography monitored the slope’s stability for several weeks, it was determined that the newly fortified switchback bluff trail and parking lot were once again safe, so on June 30th, Beacon’s reopened!

In an effort to get advance warning of any future incidents, Encinitas and Scripps will continue to monitor the bluff and parking area with temporary and permanent sensors.

Beacon’s is a crucial part of Leucadia’s soul, not to mention a fantastic place to enjoy spectacular sunsets while hanging with neighbors. I’m very grateful to city staff for working so diligently to get Beacon’s back in business.

Helping a Ukrainian family in need

Many people ask how they can get involved with worthy humanitarian efforts and I have an important one to share today.

I know we’ve all been devastated to see the tragedy created by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the unimaginable costs of human displacement. Many Ukrainian migrants have come to the U.S. border here in San Diego in need of assistance.

A friend of mine who lives in Encinitas has reached out to inquire if I might know anyone who could help one of these families.

The mom, Masha, has two children, Dasha (age 10) and Vova (age 8) and they are in need of a place to stay. Apparently Masha’s husband is a surgeon and has remained in Ukraine fighting for their country. The family speaks some English and the kids are enrolled in an Encinitas school.

My friend Larry and his wife both speak Russian and they met the family through their son’s fifth-grade class. There is some money available for helping with monthly rent or expenses. The NBC special called “Answering the Call” features Masha and her children; it’s worth watching:

If you have any desire and ability to help this family, please reach out to Larry Brough at [email protected]. He is eager to help them find a place to be settled for a little while. 

Finally, I want to leave you with some advice that I often have to give to myself. These days, it’s so difficult to avoid the toxic effects of stress and anxiety in our daily lives. Please remember to take good care of yourself, cherish your friends and loved ones, and appreciate the pleasures of being alive in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Stay strong!

We’re all in it together,

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