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California lawmakers take action on high gas prices

 March 18, 2022 at 2:26 PM PDT

S1: State legislators propose sending taxpayers a gas rebate check. We hear you and we see you. We see the pain you're feeling at the pump. How inflation is affecting you every day. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Not everyone in Oceanside welcomes new resorts and higher home values.
S2: Helps it be a better city. But at the same time , it's. It hurts. It hurts people. And it hurts the locals a lot , too.
S1: And a Spanish language translation of Handel's Messiah. And more on our weekend preview. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Anger over high gas prices has spurred lawmakers in Sacramento to come up with some way to ease the burden. A new proposal that's gaining traction comes from a coalition of Democrats who want to give every taxpayer a $400 check. Here's what California Assembly member Rebecca Bower Khan had to say yesterday announcing the proposal. And I just want Californians to know that we hear you and we see you. We see the pain you're feeling at the pump , how inflation is affecting you every day when you do your grocery shopping and feed your family. Meanwhile , a competing Republican proposal to suspend the gas tax has hit a stumbling block , but it's still being pursued. It's not yet known what proposal Governor Newsom will support , but he pledged in his State of the State address to offer help to Californians struggling with high gas prices and inflation. Joining me is KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. And welcome , Andrew. Hi.
S3: Hi. Morning. Glad to be here.
S1: Tell us about this $400 rebate idea.
S3: So in that regard , it would be similar to the Golden State stimulus payments that many Californians got last year. Democrats are billing it as gas money in your pocket and they landed on the $400 figure because it would be the equivalent of a one year gas tax suspension for the average motorist who they say would maybe fill up a 15 gallon tank once a week. But very importantly , you would not have to own a gas powered car to actually get this money.
S3: So the state has the governor estimated earlier this year a $45 billion budget surplus. And , you know , legislators and the governor are debating how to spend all of that money. And it's pretty clear that at least some of that is just going to go back to to taxpayers.
S1: Now , this is competing with a Republican idea to lift the 50 $0.01 a gallon gas tax for six months. And Democrats say their plan is more equitable.
S3: But it's very true that many Californians are simply too poor to own a car , and they're still struggling to keep up with inflation , too. It's not just gas prices that are going up. It's food costs. Of course , housing costs. We've been talking about that for years now. I'm sure folks who are listening have seen a jump in there , jionni and also , you know , utility , electricity costs are going up. Democrats say everybody needs help and the state should not forget those who don't own a car.
S3: He's an economics professor at UCSD who really studies and specializes in transportation economics. And he said that the gas tax holiday might be a better idea for people who are it would be a better deal , rather , for for people who drive a lot. So if the state is trying to help those folks who are driving a lot more than the average motorist , let's say , then the gas tax suspension might , you know , be a better deal for them. But the main concern with a gas tax holiday , he said , is that it's simply less effective at actually helping consumers. And there's some research to to explain kind of why. So during a spike in gas prices in the year 2000 , Illinois and Indiana suspended their gas taxes. And economists several years later did a study that was published in a peer reviewed academic journal. And they found that 70% of the savings from that gas tax suspension went to consumers and the remaining 30% went to gas producers , a.k.a. oil companies. So Jacobson told me , you know , consumers would likely see an even smaller share of the savings in California. And that's because our state has higher fuel standards than other states. So gas producers wouldn't be able to ramp up production fast enough to match the spike in demand that would that would result from lower gas prices. All of this is just to say that suspending the 50 $0.01 per gallon gas tax would not mean that gas prices drop by $0.51. Exactly. They might drop by $0.35 , $0.30 , $0.25 or less. It's hard to know for certain , but it wouldn't be , you know , a cent percent savings seen by consumers.
S1: On the other hand , we had sandbags. Chief economists tell us yesterday that stimulus checks have been one of the big causes of inflation. So is there a concern that this $400 rebate will just add fuel to the inflation spiral ? Sure.
S3: This is really the conundrum of the current moment for policymakers. And and I would note the gas tax suspension and any real stimulus that the government offers would run the same risk. So , you know , of course , inflation hurts consumers. It's it's. Politically , but not giving any people any help also raises the risk of recession , and that's not great either. So it's definitely a tough balance to strike.
S3: There were about a dozen Democrats who were at that , the announcement of this proposal yesterday. They say they are. They've spoken with Governor Gavin Newsom. As you noted , his office is working on his own its own proposal that was teased in the State of the state address earlier this month. And his staff have indicated that they want to target relief specifically for motorists. So it's possible we could see more than one of these ideas move forward. As I mentioned , the state has a $45 billion budget surplus. So there's more than enough money to pay for either the Republican proposal , the Democratic proposal or both , and still have money left over to spare. That's how that's how wealthy our state is right now.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. And Andrew , thank you.
S3: My pleasure , Maureen.
S1: Yesterday we told you about the City of Oceanside's history that the loss of stores and downtown and the military base gave it the nickname Ocean Slime. Now the city is getting new resorts and businesses and its home values are spiking. But KPBS North County reporter Tanya Thorn says some locals feel that gentrification is killing the last affordable coastal city in San Diego County.
S4: Natalie Sanchez lives with her parents , brother and two kids in the Libby Lake neighborhood of Oceanside. It's a two bedroom house , one bath. So it's a little difficult. But now , with prices soaring and everything , it's hard to purchase a bigger house. They lived in the same house for 25 years. She was looking to purchase her own home in Oceanside , but the only homes within her budget were in Temecula. Rooted here. We don't want to move from here. But at this point , it's kind of like , well , should we move over there ? Because that's what we could afford. The city is undergoing a lot of change. Two new beachfront resorts opened their doors less than a year ago , and trendy restaurants and cafes are filling downtown. Aaron and Roddy Browning , the owners of the Flying Pig Pub and Kitchen , say that's exactly why they moved their restaurant to the downtown area.
S5: We have a lot of catching up to do and this change is good for that because it's stimulating people coming to Oceanside while.
S4: They welcome the new business , they say. Many locals don't feel the same way.
S5: We have a lot of regulars that are not extremely excited about it because they want to keep Oceanside that that , you know , the way Oceanside was and as much as we loved it as well. I think it's important to recognize that change is going to happen with or without you.
S4: Many tourists are making Oceanside their next destination. So says Ben Fairchild with the Mission Pacific Hotel and Seabird Resort.
S2: Now they're starting to explore a new seaside destination in Oceanside. What's new and what's next ? This is the new hit part of Southern California that prior really hasn't been explored.
S4: Fairchild says the new resorts are projected to bring in $3.4 million in tax revenue when stabilized. He says that as tourism and events pick up , the resorts will have more job opportunities and boost the local economy. But prices are also going up. The average home now costs more than $700,000. Beyond what many working families can afford. But Chrissy Hawthorne with the Oceanside Historical Society says it isn't gentrification. It's something everyone is seeing that's happening everywhere , not just Oceanside. And the home prices that continue at this point in time continue to skyrocket are skyrocketing all over Southern California and San Diego County. It's not because new development is happening. The oceanside property values are skyrocketing. They were going to skyrocket with this economy. That's happening right now , unfortunately. Home values have increased everywhere , but not as fast of a rate as in Oceanside. Sanchez , whose family has lived in the city for 25 years , can feel that plainly. She says Oceanside is gentrifying , and locals in neighborhoods like the ones she lives in are getting forgotten. All the funding has been going to tourism. You know , they forget about all these little neighborhoods. They're developing new housing , but they're developing housing that the minorities or people that have been here in Oceanside can't afford. She is helping members in the community be more active in city council meetings and speak up in an effort to be heard. Tanya Thorne , KPBS News.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH. In our weekend preview , we have a Spanish language translation of the Messiah. Public studio tours , collaborative theater and plenty more. Joining me with all the details is KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. And welcome , Julia.
S6: Hi , Maureen.
S1: Now at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park , there is a special tribute concert for Ukraine. Tell us about this.
S6: This is on Saturday evening and it will feature our civic organist , Raul Prieto Ramirez. They will start the concert with some opera arias , with guest opera singers , and they will also have the organ pavilion rock band , which I had no idea existed. But I'm really glad it does. That one features a bunch of local musicians. They'll be doing some rock and roll covers. They've teased the Beatles , AC , DC , Black Sabbath. And yes , the organist is in the band and all concerts at the organ pavilion are free to the public. This is actually a stipulation and the gift of the organ from JD Spreckels to the city. That was in 1915. But they will be gathering donations and that will go towards humanitarian relief in Ukraine.
S1: That's Saturday at 530 at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Bach Collegium commissioned a Spanish translation of Handel's Messiah , and it's finally ready for its premiere. Tell us about the cross-border performances of El Macias this weekend. Right.
S6: Right. This was a collaboration with Ramon Valenzuela of Bach Collegium and Maria montenegro. He is the artistic director of the Tijuana Cultural Centers Vocal Ensemble and handles original English language work. It premiered in 1741 , and when he was alive , it was sort of a living composition already. It was constantly changing. And Valenzuela has said that they often refer to it as the messiahs because there are those multiple versions. But this is the first time there is a full translation into Spanish. And because this is Bach Collegium , they'll be doing it on period appropriate instruments too. And we think of this music as like quintessential December music , even though it was intended to be performed in Holy Week or Lent. So it's actually a little bit more fitting that they're doing March performances of this. There are three shows tonight at the Greek Orthodox Church in Cardiff , Saturday night at the Conrad , and then Sunday at five at Sacred in Tijuana.
S1: That's Bach Collegium premiering their new Spanish translation of Handel's Messiah. In visual art , there's a new exhibition at Arte Produce with two women artists. And who are they ? Right.
S6: This is Marinella , Delos and Helen Redman , and it's a dual exhibition. Both of these artists work tends to be really character driven. Helen Redman she's a figurative painter and she often paints creatures in her works as well. There's a sort of otherworldly wildness to it , and I also really love the work she's done in the past on aging and on women's bodies and motherhood. She had a show called Menopause Once , and some of us might have seen Marinella Della Holzer's work at the San Diego Museum of Art recently. She paints these highly detailed works. They're not exactly realistic , but almost. I see an element of the surreal in her works for sure , and definitely excited to see their works together. This exhibition is called Retelling Wreck Hunter and it feels really apt because there is so much story in there art. It will be on view through the end of April and there's a reception on Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m..
S1: That's artist Helen Redmon and Marinella della hosts on View at Art Produce in North Park. Now for more visual art with music too , Space for Art opens up their artist studios in an event tonight.
S6: Space for Art has 17 different studios hosting something like 35 artists. They're all working in a variety of disciplines visual art , performance , sound , art. And this event runs Friday from 7 to 930. And there is a series of performances starting at 730 and that will entertain you as you browse. Nick Leslie , with his noisy and improvisational free punk band called Necking , Chris Warren will perform Jonathan Piper and the fig mentum trio who work with alternative or unusual instruments , even sometimes deconstructed instruments. And this is fake Benton's quiet rhythms for a toy piano trio. This was composed by William Sussman.
S1: Figment a mole performed tonight at Space four Art in the East Village during Open Studios. Finally , word up returns to bring playful versions of theater to the public this Sunday at the Old Globes Plaza.
S6: It's kind of a casual group Mad Libs game hosted by the Globe's Laura Zee , and the audience participates. You also learn a little something about the theater , too. They're starting it back up again this weekend. They're doing a playwriting collaboration with guests from the Southwest , Asian and North African communities in San Diego. And some of their regular guests will be there , too , like Valerie Vega , Mickey Vail and Rick Scales. This is outdoors and it's Sunday from 1130 to 130 , and you can register in advance to reserve a seat online.
S1: That's the free word up program at the Old Globe in Balboa Park. For details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly arts newsletter , go to KPBS Saugus Arts. I have been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , thank you.
S6: Thank you , Maureen. Have a good weekend.

Anger over high gas prices has spurred lawmakers in Sacramento to come up with some way to ease the burden. A new proposal that’s gaining traction comes from a coalition of Democrats who want to give every taxpayer a $400 check. Plus, as Oceanside transforms from its “Ocean-slime” image, residents say gentrification is killing the last affordable coastal city in San Diego County. And, a special tribute concert for Ukraine at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, a Spanish-language translation of the Messiah and plenty more in this week’s weekend arts preview.