California Today: What the Tax Plan Could Mean for Californians
(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
Today’s introduction comes from Conor Dougherty, a reporter based in the Bay Area.
The $1.5 trillion tax plan unveiled by Republican lawmakers on Thursday is a sweeping rewrite full of complicated minutiae, but one thing is clear: Many Californians are not going to like it.
The proposal seeks to eliminate several deductions that Californians disproportionately benefit from. Under the current proposal, taxpayers would no longer be allowed to deduct state and city income taxes from their federal tax bill — a deduction that flows mostly to residents of a handful of higher-tax and higher-income states like California.
According to an analysis by the Tax Foundation, an independent think tank, six states — California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania — claim more than half of the so-called SALT deduction. The vast majority of those taxpayers are clustered around wealthy cities on the coasts, as shown in the county-by-county breakdown on this interactive map.
The other, more controversial idea is to reduce the cap on the mortgage interest deduction, which subsidizes homeownership by allowing people to deduct the interest on their mortgage debt. The bill as written would reduce the cap to $500,000 in debt from $1 million today. The change would only apply to new mortgages, so people already getting the benefit would be grandfathered in.
This will not affect most places. The median home price in the United States is about $200,000, and less than 3 percent of homeowners have more than $500,000 in debt, according to data from CoreLogic.Continue reading the main story
But California is not most places. Because it has the priciest real estate markets in the country, state taxpayers get a huge benefit from writing off their mortgage debt. According to Zillow, there are only four metropolitan areas in the United States where more than half of homes are priced above $500,000: San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego.
To be clear, this is still just a plan. There are lots of negotiations to come, and the powerful real estate lobby has already suggested it will fight to retain the mortgage interest deduction, which has been widely decried as wasteful and unfair despite its benefits to homeowners.
Still, people generally like tax breaks. And two of California’s favorites are at risk.
From Reader to Writer?
The New York Times is hiring a digitally savvy journalist to put together California Today. Check out the job posting for the weekday newsletter here. Applicants should live in California, know the state well, be bursting with ideas, have a proven track record of breaking news, write with a distinctive voice and have the metabolism to create an impossible-to-put-down news product for a large, discerning audience.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• After years of slim profit margins, Medicaid insurers in California made $5.4 billion in profit from 2014 to 2016 after the expansion of the Affordable Care Act. [The Los Angeles Times]
• San Francisco police officers will be equipped with Tasers beginning in December 2018 despite opposition from activists. The police commission voted in favor, 4-3. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
• Dozens of California politicians signed a letter to President Trump asking for $7.4 billion in federal funding for wildfire relief. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
• A group called Refuse Fascism led an anti-Trump protest in downtown Los Angeles. The police separated ralliers and counterprotesters with barricades. [The Los Angeles Daily News]
• With a limited supply of people who are qualified to build artificial intelligence, Silicon Valley is interested in something else that can: artificially intelligent machines. [The New York Times]
• The semiconductor company Broadcom is said to be weighing a takeover bid of Qualcomm, which is battling Apple and its own declining stock price. [The New York Times]
• Although California banned hunting mountain lions in 1990, an analysis shows that about 100 of the animals are killed annually through state-issued permits. [The Sacramento Bee]
• The House Republican tax plan includes a 1.4 percent tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education says that would include Stanford, Pomona, Occidental and Claremont McKenna. [The New York Times]
• A State Senate race in a Seattle suburb could allow Democrats to secure their stranglehold on West Coast politics, enabling Washington, Oregon and California to cooperate. [The New York Times]
• Gov. Jerry Brown spoke at the Vatican about the importance of acknowledging climate change: “We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.” [The Sacramento Bee]
• Well-meaning but misguided housing policies championed by urban liberals are hurting many Californians as well as the environment. [Opinion | The New York Times]
• The artist Mark Bradford and the director George Lucas were honored at a star-studded gala for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. [The Los Angeles Times]
Coming Up This Week
• Always wanted to visit Muir Woods or Yosemite? Several national parks and monuments are free to visit on Saturday and Sunday in honor of Veterans Day.
• “War of the Worlds,” an opera based on Orson Welles’s radio program about a Martian invasion, begins on Sunday at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, with narration from the actor Sigourney Weaver.
• A career retrospective of the rock and roll photographer Jay Blakesberg opens Thursday at the Harvey Milk Photo Center in San Francisco. His work has been published in BAM, Rolling Stone and Guitar Player.
• If you’re ready to indulge in some winter activities, the ice skating rink in downtown Sacramento is now open.
And Finally ...
Billions of bees are transported to California each year to pollinate almond groves, before moving on to prunes or plums, then cherries, and finally dispersing to crops like melons and blueberries.
But they don’t fly there.
One such highway shipment went awry last week, however, when a tractor-trailer loaded with bees crashed northeast of Sacramento.
The bees were coming from a Montana farm to escape cold weather, and would typically be kept in holding yards for months before being distributed to orchards. The Almond Board of California lists dozens of beekeepers and bee brokers from across the United States that will rent hives.
“It’s a real industrial endeavor now,” said Neal Williams, an associate professor of entomology at University of California, Davis, and the faculty co-director of its Honey and Pollination Center. “There is more money for most beekeepers in pollination compared to honey.”
Bees are vital to almond growers, Mr. Williams said, because the almond nut will not set unless pollen is transferred from one variety to another, which the bees do as they look for nectar. The bees benefit, too, because the crop is the first to bloom, in February or March, after the winter.
“They are going in at a time when they are very hungry,” Mr. Williams said.
Sgt. Tucker Huey of the Auburn Police Department, who responded to the crash scene, said initial hesitation to work among buzzing bees was unfounded.
“Some of the boxes broke and some of the lids came off during the crash,” Sergeant Huey said. “A lot of bees were free and flying around. They weren’t swarming too bad because it was dark and cool.”
The police and fire departments killed the bees with soapy water, Sergeant Huey said, on the recommendation of beekeepers who said the cargo could not be salvaged. Two people were stung, once each. He was spared.
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.Continue reading the main story