While meeting with constituents in the North County recently, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, took time out to talk about some of the issues affecting the 24th Congressional District.

Carbajal was in Santa Maria to meet with civic leaders Aug. 27 and attend the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala at Hancock College that night.

But in between, he provided an update on topics ranging from the infrastructure bill, offshore wind energy and climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic, the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and the deaths of 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan.

Here’s a brief overview of his comments:

Afghanistan

Carbajal first expressed condolences to the families of the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in two bomb blasts in Kabul, but he also said he supports withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

However, he was critical of the way it was handled — particularly setting a deadline to have Americans out of the country.

He noted the United States went into Afghanistan to eliminate Al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I think after a decade or so, where we felt we gained lots of ground, we became embroiled in an expansive civil war between the Afghani government and the Taliban, which is different than Al-Qaeda in many respects,” Carbajal said.

He said “mission creep” led to an increase in troop deployment, loss of lives and expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

“So, I agreed with former President [Donald] Trump and with President [Joe] Biden now that we … should have left a while ago,” he said. “Certainly, the execution of the withdrawal has been less than perfect, to say the least.”

Infrastructure

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill Sept. 27, and Carbajal said if it’s approved, it will bring this area nearly $1 trillion for roads, bridges, broadband service and water works, among other investments.

“So that is going a long way in modernizing our infrastructure, improving, obviously, our quality of life,” he said. “But in doing so, it means jobs, jobs, jobs, and I think that will be a big boost to our economy locally.”

Deficit

Carbajal admitted the bipartisan infrastructure spending will increase the federal deficit, but he pointed out it’s similar to the $2 trillion added by the Republican tax cuts a couple years ago and the increase from five bipartisan pandemic relief bills.

None of those included offsetting revenues, he said, but the bipartisan infrastructure legislation does, adding that 83% of the Republican tax cut went to the country’s wealthiest individuals.

“These proposals that I’m referring to will actually cut taxes for middle-class working families, just as that other proposal did for the top 1% in our country,” Carbajal said.

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Still, he said he’s optimistic the skyrocketing federal deficit can be reined in, although it must be done through a bipartisan look at the entire tax code and corporate subsidies.

“At the end of the day … when some of the largest corporations in the United States pay less taxes than an average … family or individual, something is wrong with that,” he said.

Climate change

Carbajal said although the Trump administration didn’t believe in climate change, did away with regulations aimed at controlling it and pulled out of the Paris climate accord, the United States is making progress on it.

“I think this administration … believes in the science and has gotten us back on the right course, getting us back in the Paris accord, making sure we are allowing states like California [to] get the emissions waivers for the vehicle[s] and the technology that they are demanding of our manufacturers, to make sure we are working on renewable energy,” he said.

Wind power

A renewable energy project Carbajal said he’s working on is the wind farm proposed off the coast of Morro Bay, which he said would reduce reliance of fossil fuels, help meet renewable energy goals and benefit the regional economy.

He said the wind generation project would compensate for the loss of well-paying jobs when Diablo Canyon Power Plant is decommissioned, but he added the plant is being considered for an offshore wind support base, which would boost the local economy even more.

Recall impact

Carbajal said he doesn’t believe the effort to recall Newsom will have an impact on the state’s climate goals for one reason.

“I don’t believe Gov. Gavin Newsom’s going to be recalled,” he said. “I think it’s an unfortunate partisan power grab [and] a waste of money — $250 million that could have been spent towards our education, towards our infrastructure.”

COVID-19

As far as halting the COVID-19 pandemic, Carbajal said the federal government is currently focused on making sure vaccines are available and trying to get everyone vaccinated.

“There’s a whole education campaign right now going on [to] remind people that if things get worse, we could possibly go back to shutting down again, and we don’t want our economy, we don’t want our businesses, our institutions, shut down,” he said.

Carbajal, who contracted COVID-19 in 2020, said he expects to see more local governments and businesses mandate vaccinations or more frequent testing.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he said. “If you don’t get vaccinated, then you’ve got to test frequently to minimize the risk and let those around you that you are putting [at risk] by not getting vaccinated know you are virus-free.”

Carbajal said while some people say they have a right to not get vaccinated, institutions and businesses have the right to say “if you don’t get vaccinated, you can’t come in.”

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