U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) touted the federal pandemic relief dollars he helped bring to Santa Cruz County during a recent business lunch, adding that it was vital to continue pushing for more money for infrastructure to enable the region, state and country to emerge from its COVID-19 malaise.
Dozens of community members and business owners flocked to the Chaminade Resort on Thursday to witness the return of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Series. Panetta was the first featured guest for over a year.
Casey Beyer, President and CEO of the chamber, welcomed the return of the lecture series and Panetta’s presentation.
“It was great to bring the community and chamber leaders to a safe outdoor environment to listen to Congressman Panetta,” Beyer said. “We are delighted to find the event again.
Panetta said he was happy with the US Senate’s approval of the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill last month. Delivering one of President Joe Biden’s highest priorities, it would mean a long-awaited update to the country’s roads, railways, waterways and broadband, he noted.
However, some Democrats in the House of Representatives, including Panetta, are pushing for a complementary $ 3.5 trillion version of the bill, which is far from assured passage.
While he understands that some compromises might be necessary – and he approaches issues with an open mind – there are some substantive issues that simply need to be addressed.
“It is important not to bargain against ourselves. We can take things away, or we can add things, ”Panetta said in an interview after the speech. “We need to work together not just in times of crisis, but every day. “
Panetta, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the committee had a number of proposals included in the $ 3.5 trillion version to rebuild the economy more equitably. Most notable, he said, are the proposed new corporate tax levels.
The proposal would lower the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5% for businesses with income of $ 5 million or more, maintain a rate of 21% for businesses with income between 400 $ 000 and $ 5 million and would lower it to 18% for companies with income less than $ 400,000.
Additionally, he said the country loses up to $ 1 trillion each year due to unpaid taxes – which the committee aims to address by strengthening the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to catch tax evaders. An additional proposal would provide tax credits for greener modes of transportation.
“When companies like Santa Cruz Metro want to buy zero carbon buses, like they did here, they [would] get a tax credit, ”he said. “When you want to get out of your car and get on an electric bike, you get a tax credit.”
Panetta also praised the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, enacted in March. Among other provisions, the plan allocated $ 27 billion to California for the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.
The federal government has provided Santa Cruz County with significant federal funds under this law and other programs. This includes $ 118 million to city and local governments for sanitation, safety, security and more.
Additionally, $ 13 million went to the health care system and hospitals, over $ 90 million went to schools in Santa Cruz County, and $ 90 million went to UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. With the county still battling the pandemic, Panetta called it an opportunity to start picking up the pieces and moving forward.
“We now have the opportunity to invest in our community,” said Panetta. “More than ever, we must be responsible now and for our future. “
While Panetta has repeatedly said he is working for a better future, some attendees feared that all the proposals he spoke about would come to fruition.
Phil Cisneros, a business consultant living in Soquel, acknowledged the hard work and effort of Panetta and others, but said he was skeptical about the future.
“What’s the return on investment of all this hard work? ” He asked.
Beyer, meanwhile, acknowledged the challenges lawmakers face and said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to what will be in the final infrastructure bill.
“As someone who has worked in Congress, I know what it’s like to be in the trenches,” said Beyer, who was the chief of staff to former US Representative Tom Campbell. “It’s always a chore. Especially when there is such a gap.