Editorial: Help is on the way for low-income workers
By Toni G. Atkins | Speaker of the Assembly
The state Legislature just wrapped up the 2015 legislative session. And working together, the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Brown have achieved some real successes for the people of California.
One of the highlights of the year was our balanced, on-time budget that invested heavily in public schools and higher education while also strengthening our rainy-day reserves and paying down debt.
But the achievement that fills me with the most pride is the establishment of a new state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The state EITC will provide desperately needed relief for roughly 2 million workers. It will lift 50,000 people out of poverty and another 50,000 out of deep poverty. It could help as many as 150,000 San Diegans with very low incomes.
Before this year, there had been at least seven attempts to create a state EITC since 2002. In 2015, we finally did it, joining 25 other states (plus the District of Columbia) that supplement the federal EITC with an additional state-level benefit for low-income working families and individuals.
Families that earn incomes up to $13,870 will qualify for the tax credit. Depending on the level of income, families can qualify for credits worth up to $2,653. Workers with no dependents who make up to $6,580 will qualify for credits worth up to $214.
A refundable credit — meaning it helps people who have an income from work but no tax liability — the EITC is money placed directly in the pockets of very low-income working people, and it will immediately be pumped back into the economy as recipients spend it on groceries and other essential goods and services.
Statewide, the EITC gives individuals and families an extra $380 million. Economists tell us that when we give low-income workers an additional credit of $1, the multiplier effect is worth $1.50 to $2. That means our new EITC will benefit local economies to the tune of $570 million to $760 million.
We must always remember that whenever we talk about widespread poverty, we’re talking about kids — nearly half of all children in California live below or near the poverty line. Poverty severely reduces our children’s chances for success later in life. Anything we can do to help their parents make ends meet is an investment in their — and, collectively, our — future.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a proven way to fight poverty, give children a fighting chance and encourage employment. But it doesn’t work unless those who are qualified claim it when they file their tax returns. That’s why it’s important to get the word out and make sure that all workers in California who are eligible for this new credit claim it next year when they do their taxes.
As we educate Californians about the new state EITC, it also gives us an opportunity to remind workers about the federal EITC. The federal EITC is available to even more Californians — families earning nearly $50,000 a year can qualify for the benefit.
In 2013, the average federal credit was $2,373 in California. But participation rates are too low, ranging in recent years from 71 – 78.6 percent, depriving Californians — and our economy — of more than $1 billion per year in federal credits.
I’ll be working with community organizations and helping them disseminate the information so that we reach as many people as possible, and I’m encouraging other public officials to do the same.
The more people who claim the EITC, the better it is for us all.
—Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) represents the 78th District. She can be reached through her website at asmdc.org/speaker.
Editorial: A future for all of us
By SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale and SANDAG Vice Chair and County Supervisor Ron Roberts
We all want to keep this region a wonderful place to live. We want to protect our environment. We want our local economy to thrive. We want everyone to have the chance to live in healthy, vibrant communities.
How do we achieve these goals for the future in the face of inevitable change? Because big change is coming. There are 3.2 million people in the region now – we expect another million in the next 35 years, mostly from the children of people who already live here now. With those new people will come another half a million jobs and 300,000 homes.
Accommodating that growth while still maintaining our quality of life is going to take careful planning. That is what the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been doing over the last three years. The result is San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan.
San Diego Forward – a vision created with the help of more than two years of public and stakeholder input – envisions a future where we will accommodate growth in our existing communities, preserve our open space, and create active, vibrant communities connected by a variety of transportation choices. More public transit, more managed lanes to create free flow for transit and carpools, and a regionwide network of biking and walking facilities. All told, San Diego Forward calls for a $204 billion investment in our transportation system between now and 2050.
In Mission Valley, that means operational improvements on Interstate 8, increased frequency of the San Diego Trolley Green Line, separated bikeways stretching through the Valley and connecting to neighboring communities, Rapid bus services, and connections with new trolley lines, including one from South Bay to Kearny Mesa and another from El Cajon to Pacific Beach.
In the wider area of central San Diego, the plan will mean a multitude of new transit routes and active transportation improvements, as well as additional roadway infrastructure to ensure faster and more convenient trips via transit, bike, carpool and auto. Fourteen Rapid services are planned to serve the central region, and streetcars are planned in the urban core near Downtown and in the beach communities.
Additionally, local bus and trolley frequencies will be improved to provide better service that is well connected to regional transit. Just around the corner is the Mid-Coast Trolley project that will extend the Blue Line Trolley from Downtown to UCSD and University City.
Other future trolley services will include the Pacific Beach Line, an extension of the Mid-Coast line to Sorrento Mesa to connect with the COASTER, trolley from University City and Kearny Mesa to San Ysidro, and finally the conversion of the Mid-City Rapid line to trolley, connecting Downtown and SDSU. An intermodal transit center also is planned to provide seamless transit access to the airport.
Highway improvements in the central core include operational improvements on I-5 and I-8, as well as managed lanes on I-805 from state Route 54 to its connection with I-5 in Sorrento Mesa. Managed-lanes projects are also planned on I-5 between I-8 and Sorrento Mesa, as well as on state Route 94 between I-5 and SR 125, and on I-15 to connect SR 94 to the existing managed lanes north of SR 52.
Adding transportation choice has its benefits. Economic analysis of San Diego Forward shows that for every dollar invested in the Plan, we will realize almost $2 in economic benefit. An efficient system will support an average of 53,000 more jobs a year, and it will result in an average annual increase of $13 billion in gross regional product.
Creating choice also allows for more trips to occur outside of a solo vehicle, benefiting the environment. The transportation network in the Regional Plan will cut greenhouse gas emission even farther than targets set for our region by the California Air Resources Board – reducing per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and 21 percent by 2035.
In the end, we all have the same goals for the region’s future – a strong economy, healthy communities, and environmental protection. And we all have a role to play in getting us there, including finding ways to reduce driving, embracing more efficient technology, and just living a healthy lifestyle. Let’s work together to keep San Diego moving forward.