New Measure Would Limit Impact of Federal Tax Overhaul on Californians

TaxesGov. Jerry Brown will have to decide soon on whether to once again put California in direct conflict with the Trump administration – this time with a newly passed bill which has the near-unanimous support of Republican as well as Democratic state lawmakers.

It’s Senate Bill 539, by U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León, a state senator from Los Angeles. The measure would limit the impact on affluent residents of the new $10,000 federal limit on deducting state and local taxes from federal tax returns by sharply increasing an existing tax credit for contributions to a college scholarship program already run by the state.

If SB539 is signed by Brown, families making more than $100,000 – especially homeowners – could potentially save billions of dollars with the new, much higher 75 percent credit. In 2015 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – 6.1 million California tax filers used the state and local tax deduction, with an average of $18,438, according to the Tax Policy Center.

This explains the bipartisan appeal of the measure, which passed the Assembly and Senate with a total of two negative votes – one Republican (state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Fresno) and one Democrat (Assemblyman Jim Frazier of Contra Costa County).

It’s not clear whether Brown will sign the measure. While he called the Republican tax overhaul approved last December “evil in the extreme” at the time it was being considered by Congress, he’s been reported to be skeptical that any state tax avoidance effort would be accepted by the Internal Revenue Service.

That’s the impression the IRS has sought to create since the state and local tax deduction was limited. And last month, the IRS proposed a 15 percent cap on deductibility of certain gifts, including to state programs like the one that would benefit from SB539.

IRS rule could reduce deductions for private tuition

The proposed IRS rule is so broad, however, that Gannett News Service reported on Aug. 24 that it could affect laws allowing for state and local tax credits for charitable contributions in 34 states. In several Republican-dominated states, these credits are available for private school tuition.

This generated a sharp reaction from EdChoice, an Indianapolis-based national nonprofit organization that’s devoted to encouraging alternatives to traditional public schools.

“The IRS chose to adopt a new rule after New York and a few other states who overtax their citizens at the state and local level had the audacity to create federal tax-dodging schemes,” EdChoice told Gannett. “These tax-dodging schemes do not compare in intent or purpose to the charitable programs created years ago to help children access K-12 education where they fit in and can learn.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, disputed the idea that the proposed IRS rule would have a heavy impact on donations to private schools and to school choice advocates.

In July, four states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland – sued the federal government over the deduction limit, saying it amounts to unconstitutional “double taxation.” The Tax Foundation says those states and California are the five where taxpayers will face the biggest hit.

But most tax experts think the lawsuit is unlikely to win, given the long-established primacy of Congress in setting tax laws and of the IRS in interpreting them.

California has already sued the Trump administration more than 50 times – but not, so far at least, over the tax deduction change.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Demands Trump, Congress Apologize to Illegal Aliens

border fence mexico immigrationCalifornia state legislators passed a resolution Thursday calling on Congress to formally apologize, and for President Donald Trump to join them in acknowledging wrongdoing in separating illegal alien family units at the border.

State Senators Kevin de León, Richard Pan, and Scott Wiener authored the joint resolution that was scheduled for debate, and passed on Thursday. KPBS reported just three legislators opposed — Joel Anderson, Mike Morrell, and Jim Nielsen — while 29 approved it, and eight didn’t vote.

The California Senate resolution calls on Congress to specifically apologize to the children separated from the adult foreign nationals who illegally brought them across the U.S. border. It also petitions Congress and President Trump to acknowledge wrongdoing in separating illegal alien adults and children.

The resolution describes the policy of separating foreign nationals who have crossed the border illegally as “detrimental.” De León described the separations as “government-sanctioned kidnapping.”

“They created the problem, they need to fix the problem and make sure there is clear accountability,” de León proclaimed in the California Senate resolution, according to the report. “We should apologize to these children we have permanently harmed,” said Sen. Pan. Pan compared family separation to U.S. WWII internment of Japanese citizens.

The 1997 Flores settlement under President Bill Clinton dictated that children could not be detained more than 20 days. That policy continued to exist under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Due to the pre-existing policy, President Trump’s no tolerance border security policy resulted in separation of illegal alien adults held for crossing the border illegally,from children they brought over with them. …

Click here to read the full article from Breitbart.com/California

Poll: Half of CA Republican Voters Unlikely to Vote in Dem-on-Dem Senate Race

Dianne FeinsteinWith no Republican candidates to choose from, 47 percent of Republican likely voters and 24 percent of independents “say they would not vote in [the Senate] race.”
New poll from Public Policy Institute of California has Gavin Newsom with 24 point lead for governor:

Is this the California Democrats’ way of admitting taxes are too high?

Kevin de LeonIt’s almost like a quiet confession that socialism has been wrong the whole time. In California, the left is fighting to bail out the rich.

Three bills pending in Sacramento would allow the highest-earning Californians to get around the federal tax reform’s new $10,000 limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes.

Two of the bills were authored by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, the termed-out Senate leader who is running to the left of Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate this November. The other was introduced by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, whose liberal credentials are in evidence in her legislative scorecard ratings — 93 percent from the California Labor Federation (96 percent for “lifetime floor votes,”) and 30 percent from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

If these three bills had been introduced by Republicans, Democrats would be on television every day denouncing the bills, the authors, the party, the president, the rich and capitalism generally.

Instead, you probably haven’t heard a word about them. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

California Democratic Party abandons incumbent Feinstein, endorses opponent

Dianne FeinsteinThe California Democratic Party voted to endorse a progressive state senator over incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate in the party’s executive board meeting in Oakland, California, on Saturday.

Though Feinstein beat state Sen. Kevin de León, 51, by nearly 33 points in the jungle primary last month, progressive grassroots activists have largely taken control of the state party apparatus in recent years and have pushed for a more liberal candidate to take on the Trump administration.

This is the second time they have elected to endorse de León over 85-year-old Feinstein, who has served California in the U.S. Senate since 1992.

According to the balloting results, the decision was made by 333 voting members who make up the California Democratic Party’s executive board. While de León received 65 percent of the vote with 217 votes, Feinstein earned a paltry 22 votes or 7 percent. Rather than endorse either candidate, 94 members elected to vote for no endorsement. …

Click here to read the full article from NBC News

California revives 100% carbon-free energy bill

California lawmakers revived a long-stalled proposal on Tuesday to set a goal of generating 100 percent of the state’s energy from carbon-free sources.

With other controversial and high-stakes energy legislation also moving forward, California lawmakers face an array of decisions with vast implications for the Western energy grid, the future of renewable power and consumers’ electric bills.

A state legislative committee sent the 100 percent clean energy bill to the full Assembly, setting up a vote later this year.

The bill’s revival is a tentative victory for its author, Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon, who is waging an uphill battle to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the November election. …

Click here to read the full article from KCRA News

Left and Lefter in California

california-flagThe California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the re-election of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success — a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, built arguably the world’s best transportation, water, and power systems, and created an incubator for middle-class prosperity. Ironically, the politician most responsible for undermining this achievement has been Pat’s son, Governor Jerry Brown. Long skeptical of his father’s growth-oriented, pro-suburban policies, Brown the Younger put strong constraints on growth, especially when these efforts concerned the fight against global warming — a quasi-religious crusade. Battling climate change has awakened Brown’s inner authoritarian; he has lauded the “coercive power of the state” and embraced “brainwashing” on climate issues.

Brown’s stridency on climate, however, does not extend to all leftist issues. Like Feinstein, Brown has some appreciation of the importance of infrastructure, such as the need to increase water supplies, and he exercises at least a modicum of caution on fiscal matters like the state’s gargantuan pension debt. He is not a strict identitarian, having vetoed an attempt to enact Title IX standards of evidence for campus sexual-assault cases, a measure embraced by the state’s vocal feminist leaders.

As Brown prepares to depart, and Feinstein struggles to retain office, a new dominant coalition — led by tech oligarchs, identity politicians, and Greens — is rising to usurp control of the party. This new coalition of the privileged and aggrieved marks a departure both from Pat Brown’s social democracy and his son’s more elitist but still measured politics.

State senator Kevin de León, the emergent leader of this new configuration and cat’s paw of billionaire Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire epitomizes the new approach. Having made much of his fortune in oil sands and coal, Steyer is now the Democratic Party’s prime bankroller, and his largesse extends to the drive to impeach President Trump. He has made common cause with hard-Left politicians like de León, and even embraced unionism—as long as labor follows his extreme position on climate change.

Steyer and other oligarchs are working to eliminate the last vestiges of the old Democratic Party. Climate activists have been targeting, with some success, the so-called Mod Squad — centrist Democrat legislators from the state’s less-prosperous interior and working-class suburbs. This shrinking group, occasionally financed by energy, homebuilding, and other pillars of the old economy, sometimes holds the balance of power in Sacramento, and has managed to slow some of the most draconian climate measures.

De León’s enthusiastic embrace of climate-change dogma may seem odd for a politician whose impoverished district suffers from Los Angeles’s continued de-industrialization, hastened by strict environmental regulation and high energy costs. Instead of backing policies that would create more high-wage jobs, de León’s priorities are largely redistributive. This jibes with his support among public employees and from the militant California Nurses Association. He endorsed the union-backed single-payer health-care plan, a measure that assembly speaker Anthony Rendon tabled as impossibly expensive (it would more than double the state budget). Immigration is another key de León issue. He is a fervent supporter of illegal immigrants, in a state that houses one in fourof the nation’s total, bragging about his own relatives’ use of false IDs.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and frontrunner in the governor’s race, also embraces these policies. After briefly trying to appeal to mainstream business, Newsom has fallen into line with Bay Area-dominated progressives and the big public unions on virtually every issue, including single-payer. His likely election suggests a continuation of California’s current drift, but without Brown’s occasional restraint and intelligence.

The Golden State’s progressive tilt would not be possible without demographic change. The state’s majority-minority makeup has made the capture of middle-class and moderate voters less important. As middle-class families leave California, the electorate is increasingly dominated by racial minorities — with whites, 70 percent of the population in 1970, now less numerous than Hispanics and destined to be roughly one-third of the population by 2030. California’s demography is more and more dominated by the poor and near-poor (roughly one-third of the population), the young and unattached, and a residual population of older whites, many luxuriating on generous state pensions or inflated property values.

What makes all this work is the growing power of the tech oligarchs and their more glamorous cousins in the Hollywood glitterati. The tech boom of the last decade has obscured the decline of California’s basic industries, such as energy and manufacturing. California’s above-average job performance since 2010 is almost entirely a combination of high-income employment growth in the Bay Area and the swelling ranks of low-wage service workers who serve them. The oligarchs, including tech investor Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple founder, have lined up behind de León. Tech will likely bankroll the pliable and well-heeled Newsom, who already gets cash from Airbnb, Twitter, and Salesforce.com.

This marriage of the poor and the new rich appears to be the dominant theme emerging in California. The oligarchs, as Greg Ferenstein has reported, don’t even pretend to believe in upward mobility for the masses. Instead, they favor policies — such as forced densification — that will house their largely young, childless workers, including the nation’s largest population of H1-B visa-holders. Measures such as State Senator Mark Wiener’s SB 827 would largely strip cities of their ability to control development anywhere near transit stops. Civil rights groups, mainstream environmental organizations, neighborhood associations, and cities themselves have come out in opposition, and even Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a dedicated densifier, fears a backlash in the city’s remaining single-family neighborhoods. Yet the oligarchs and their YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) allies, whom they generously fund, have backed the bill.

At its core, the oligarchs’ vision for California represents a kind of high-tech feudalism. Tech companies are starting to dominate sectors like electric and autonomous cars, even seeking monopolies in dense urban areas. They support limiting ownership and consumer choice, even as the bulk of automobiles remain gas-powered. In the longer term, the oligarchs have little interest in creating blue-collar jobs and would prefer to replace employment with algorithms. Deprived of work and unable to pay for housing, the working class and an ever-shrinking middle class would be bought off with income-maintenance payments — twenty-first-century alms for the poor.

Opponents of this new gentry agenda should appeal to the remnants of the middle class and the unsubsidized portions of the working class. Feinstein could win reelection by rallying such voters; her name recognition and ample campaign war chest could help her fend off de León this year. But even if she wins, it will likely be a last hurrah for the old Democrats. Tech oligarchs and activist CEOs have committed themselves to extreme environmentalism, identity politics, and open-borders immigration policy. California’s bevy of clueless celebrities, now celebrated by Time as “suddenly serious” for following the identitarian party line, have also climbed aboard.  As anyone knows who has suffered through awards shows or listened to interviews with stars, the entertainment industry—much like tech — has become homogeneous in its views.

The key issues for the glitterati are not income inequality, upward mobility, or the preservation of middle-class neighborhoods but the feverish pastimes of the already rich: gender and racial issues, climate change, guns, and anything that offends the governesses and schoolmarms of intersectionality. To the ranks of these over-exposed but influential voices, you can also add California’s media and most of its intelligentsia, who seem to get their talking points from progressive sources and work assiduously to limit the influence of moderate (much less conservative) views. With Silicon Valley increasingly able to control content and ever more willing to curb debate, the policy agenda of the state’s new elite may well become reality — a nightmarish one for millions of ordinary Californians.

CA Democrats Reject Feinstein; Signal State’s Leftward March Will Continue

Dianne FeinsteinWhat a difference a few decades make: in 1990, Dianne Feinstein was apparently too far left for California voters, losing a gubernatorial race to Republican Pete Wilson. Nearly 30 years later, she’s not left enough — at least for the state Democratic Party, which has refused to endorse her for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. She received only 37 percent of delegates’ votes at the late February annual party convention — far short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Supporters of State Senator Kevin de León, who nearly won the endorsement, serenaded Feinstein with the chant “Your time is up! Your time is up!” at the end of her speech.

Feinstein is often characterized as a centrist Democrat, though she has been reliably left of center. According to the American Conservative Union’s most recent congressional rankings, she scored an 8, on a scale where 100 represents a perfect conservative voting record. Her lifetime rating is 9.15. On the other side, left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action gives Feinstein an 85 rating, on a similar 100 scale. She scored 75 in 2015, 90 in 2014, 100 in 2013 (when she made the list of ADA Senate “heroes”), and a 95 in 2012.

With such a reliably left-wing voting record, why did Feinstein lose the support of the California Democratic Party? Maybe it’s because the party — though not necessarily its voters — is listing so far to port that it’s falling into the deep end. De León’s popularity at the convention was driven by several factors. He’s taken a harder line against the Trump administration than Feinstein, and he’s promoted himself as a young leader with more energy to fight the battles that the party is picking in 2018. De León is a steamrolling union organizer, while Feinstein is a comfortable-in-her-wealth multimillionaire. Insiders believe that de León could be an insurgent candidate who would stir up Trump’s Washington more than Feinstein has.

Since the Golden State became the Cerulean State, public-employee pensions have become a fiscal time bomb, taxation continues to increase, businesses have fled a hostile commercial and regulatory environment, the middle class is finding refuge elsewhere, the poverty rate is the nation’s highest, and the state’s quality of life has been ranked the worst in the nation. The state’s homeless problem is a national embarrassment, its housing crisis goes unaddressed, and its public school system is failing students and parents.

If the state Democratic Party’s shunning of Feinstein is any indication of how voters will mark their state and local ballots this year and in coming elections, these problems will only grow worse. California could become a 2020s version of a 1980s Rust Belt state, where economies, prospects, and populations recede at alarming rates. If the Democratic Party’s leftward swing indeed resonates with voters, California is in more trouble than anyone has previously thought.

Kerry Jackson is the Pacific Research Institute’s fellow in California studies.

This article was originally published by City Journal online

California Democratic Party isn’t backing Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein failed to win the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party as she seeks her fifth term in Washington, but her supporters say it won’t hurt her with a broader swath of voters.

Party activists were more eager to back her primary challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who is crafting himself as a fresh face with stronger progressive credentials. However, he too failed to earn the 60 percent support he needed to win the endorsement.

That means neither candidate will get the party’s seal of approval or extra campaign cash leading into the June primary. The decision came from more than 3,000 activists gathered for the party’s annual convention this weekend, an event aimed at generating enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

None of the four Democrats running to succeed Jerry Brown as governor secured an endorsement either. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Democrat State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigns before facing expulsion vote

State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned late last week as colleagues prepared to vote on whether to expel the Los Angeles County Democrat from office, days after an outside investigation found the Los Angeles County Democrat had engaged in a pattern of unwanted “sexually suggestive” behavior toward six women, including his subordinates, while serving in the Assembly and Senate.

In a letter to Senate members, Mendoza said he was resigning immediately, saying: “I refuse to participate any further in the farcical ‘investigation’ against me that ignores the Senate’s own rules, invents processes, criteria and standards as needed, ignores due process and constitutional rights to self-defense all for the purpose of playing to election-year politicking.”

In the letter, Mendoza accused Senate leader Kevin de León of seeking his ouster to show his “‘sincerity’ in supporting the MeToo cause.” De León, Mendoza’s former roommate, is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A resolution introduced late Wednesday night by de León called for Mendoza’s expulsion. If approved, it would have been be the first time a state legislator has been removed from office since 1905. Mendoza would have been given the right to speak on the Senate floor before a vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register