California Voters Could Be Asked To Impose An Estate Tax

property taxCalifornia voters would consider a state-mandated tax on the assets of wealthy residents, one that could generate as much as $1 billion a year for low-income families, under legislation introduced in the state Legislature on Tuesday.

The bill would ask voters next year to impose an estate tax of a size equal to what was loosened in 2017 by President Trump and Republicans in Congress as part of a broad tax overhaul law. The goal, said the proposal’s author, is to create an overall tax burden for wealthy Californians equal to what existed before the federal tax break was created.

Under Senate Bill 378, the revenues from the tax would be earmarked for programs designed to combat income inequality.

“A California estate tax benefits low-income families by helping them build wealth and end the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a written statement. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

Who keeps buying California’s scarce water? Saudi Arabia

DroughtFour hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. More than half of the town’s 94,000 acres are bushy blue-green fields growing the crop.

Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands.

Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.

The storehouses belong to Fondomonte Farms, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabia-based company Almarai – one of the largest food production companies in the world. The company sells milk, powdered milk and packaged items such as croissants, strudels and cupcakes in supermarkets and corner stores throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and in specialty grocers throughout the US.

Each month, Fondomonte Farms loads the alfalfa on to hulking metal shipping containers destined to arrive 24 days later at a massive port stationed on the Red Sea, just outside King Abdullah City in Saudi Arabia. …

Click here to read the full article from The Guardian

Proposed legislation would redirect federal funds away from California high-speed rail

High speed rail constructionTwo House bills introduced this month by Republicans from California seek to redirect federal funds from the state’s high-speed rail project and use the money for other purposes. The Trump administration in February demanded funds back from the controversial project, which has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.

A bill introduced by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would “repurpose” about $3.5 billion worth of federal funds for the rail system to water infrastructure projects to help the state cope with future droughts. A second piece of legislation, dubbed the “High-Speed Refund Act” and introduced by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, requires that any funds the Transportation Department provided to the high-speed rail development go instead to “important freight and highway projects.”

“The California high-speed rail project is a boondoggle that California and American taxpayers must move on from,” McCarthy said earlier this month. “Since its inception, the project’s costs have ballooned while oversight and accountability within the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been nonexistent.” …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Gov. Newsom has a $500 million plan for homelessness

Tent of homeless person on 6th Street Bridge with Los Angeles skyline in the background. California, USA. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and a dozen other California mayors asked Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday to allocate more state money for homelessness than what the governor has proposed.

Newsom’s proposed budget includes $500 million for homelessness — the same amount that was included in the state’s 2018-19 budget. The mayors did not say how much more money they’re requesting.

“We deliberately did not put a number in there because it’s a different relationship with this governor. He’s made housing a priority,” said Steinberg, who chairs the Big City Mayors group that met with Newsom at the Capitol. “He’s already said, and it’s backed up by his budget, that housing and homelessness is a priority. Of course we want to bump the number up … but we’re going to do it with him.”

Newsom did not commit to an additional amount of money, Steinberg said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

California Gov. Newsom offers rare praise for Trump

Gavin Newsom budgetPresident Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have been at odds long before the latter took office in Sacramento earlier this year – lambasting each other in speeches and on social media over issues ranging from immigration to high speed rail projects.

So it probably came as a shock to many when Newsom on Monday offered rare praise of a Trump administration policy that provides tax breaks to spur investment in low-income areas.

During a speech at Stanford University, Newsom said the Opportunity Zones program will not only help boost California’s already enormous economy, but would also help provide funds to deal with state’s housing crisis and would promote energy investment to help the state reach its climate change goals. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

California Sitting on $9.3 Billion in Unclaimed Property, Funds

money bagThe state may owe you cash!

California is currently sitting on $9.3 billion of unclaimed property and forgotten funds. Visit the state controller’s website and fill out the form to search if you are owed any money.

If that money is less than $5,000, you can file that claim right away.

Last month, the California State Controller’s Office said over 33,000 people were reunited with over $23 million. In addition, more than 800 properties were reclaimed in San Francisco alone. …

Click here to read the full article from NBC News

Governor Gavin Newsom halts California death penalty executions

Death PenaltyChild murderers, rapists and serial killers who tortured their victims with everything from ice picks to a 4-foot twig are set to have their lives spared Wednesday – until at least 2023 – as California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs an executive order to halt death penalties in the state.

The controversial decision by the Democrat – which has drawn the ire of one of his adversaries, President Trump – was influenced by his belief that California’s death penalty system “has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation.”

Newsom, in prepared remarks he is expected to deliver Wednesday, also says the system has wasted “billions of taxpayer dollars”.

The state’s residents though, in 2016, narrowly struck down a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty. And Newsom’s decree appears to be a flip-flop from what he told the editorial board of the Modesto Bee newspaper that year while campaigning for the failed measure – that he would “not get my personal opinions in the way of the public’s right to make a determination of where they want to take us” on the issue. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

Newsom delays threat to block transportation funds to cities that flunk housing goals

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105In his first week in office, Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a strong warning to cities and counties: He was coming for their road repair dollars if they didn’t meet state goals for new housing.

“If you’re not hitting your goals, I don’t know why you get the money,” Newsom said when he announced his budget plans in January.

Two months later, Newsom is setting aside plans to withhold state transportation dollars from local governments for four years. The move, which comes after fellow Democrats pushed back on the idea, is part of a larger acknowledgment that revamping how California plans for growth will be more arduous than the governor implied on the campaign trail. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s ambitious plan to stop deadly wildfires may not be enough

US-FIRE-WEATHERAs California fire officials roll out an ambitious plan to thin the state’s overgrown forests in an attempt to prevent another year of deadly wildfires, a growing body of research suggests their success may be limited.

The foremost strategy, proposed in a 28-page report to the governor last week, is to clear trees and brush near vulnerable communities. Thirty-five areas, including about a half dozen in the Bay Area, are targeted in the safety blitz.

But while fewer trees can mean less fuel for fires, researchers have found that it can also mean undermining a forest’s natural defenses and increase the fire risk. For example, thinning can let in sunlight that dries out the woodlands or create space for new, less fire-resistant vegetation to emerge. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle 

California bill would seal 8 million criminal convictions

Police carA Northern California lawmaker and district attorney announced Thursday a proposed law that would automatically clear some 8 million criminal convictions eligible for sealing but that remain public records.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and state Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco said the bill if passed would help millions of offenders take advantage of an often overlooked law allowing convicted drunken drivers, burglars and other low-level offenders to seal their records.

Gascon at a press conference in San Francisco with Ting said fewer than 20 percent of eligible cases are cleared and that most eligible offenders are unaware they can seal their criminal records and are “living in a paper prison.”

Sex offenders and any offender who served time in prison are ineligible. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press