Members of San Diego congressional delegation
Reps. Juan Vargas (left), Sara Jacobs, Scott Peters and Mike Levin. Image from livestream

The five members of the San Diego County congressional delegation on Wednesday stressed the need to work together and appeared united in seeking to raise the “SALT” tax deduction limit and invest in infrastructure.

Democrats Sara Jacobs, Mike Levin, Scott Peters and Juan Vargas met in person for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce‘s annual congressional conversation, while Republican Darrell Issa sent a video message.

“For 20 years, I’ve enjoyed being live at these events,” said Issa, who represents the 50th District in East County. “There’s a lot of work to be done together.”

He said it’s “time for the nation’s capitol to do work for people back home,” and said expansion of the cross-border trade port at Otay Mesa is a major infrastruction priority for him.

SALT — the state and local tax deduction — was limited to $10,000 under former President Trump’s 2017 tax law, forcing millions in California to pay more federal income tax.

Vargas, who moderated the discussion, called the limit “vindictive” because it primarily affected Democratic states. Levin, who represents the 49th District in north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties, noted that a full deduction for state and local taxes had been the law since 1913 until Trump’s change.

“People feel burned by this…It’s really unfair the way the Trump tax cuts did this,” said Peters, who represents the 52nd District in coastal San Diego County. He pointed out that 18 million taxpayers in California had to pay more.

On other issues, the four Democrats were largely in agreement, but said they couldn’t speak for Issa:

Immigration — With the economy rebounding from the pandemic, and many jobs going unfilled, the four Democrats suggested that comprehensive immigration reform could be achieved. Peters said San Diego needs immigrants with a technical background because “we want to stay a center of excellence in science.” Vargas, whose 51st District stretches along the border, said many Republicans privately support comprehensive change on this issue.

Cyber Attacks — All stressed the need to fund cyber security, and Jacobs, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, said San Diego is uniquely positioned to take a lead because of its technology industry and military presence. And she said military strategy may need to be updated because “we don’t know if attacking a private sector company is an act of war.”

Infrastructure — Jacobs, who represents the 53rd District in central San Diego County, said infrastructure is truly a bipartisan issue among her constituents. “Regardless of their political affiliation, they know we need infrastructure investment,” she said. Peters said he hopes for Republican support of an infrastructure bill to show that “Congress can actually work together.”

Economy — All agreed that the economy is on the road to a comeback. “We are poised right now to come roaring out of this pandemic,” said Vargas. “I am a little concerned about inflation. But I’m bullish on what we’re doing.”

2022 — Asked whether the Democrats could retain control of Congress in the 2022 elections, the four acknowledged that with redistricting controlled by Republican state legislatures, it would be a challenge. But Levin said he is optimistic. “If we can show that democracy can function, I think that will give us our best shot,” he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.