Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump

Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. sits the rest of the country, and a chasm. On immigration and taxes, guns and healthcare, cannabis and climate change, California is the federal government’s equal and opposite reaction. One year into President Trump’s first term, the push and pull continues—playing out under the Capitol dome, in the courts and on Twitter.

Ready for another year? Follow along here.

How California policy affects you, straight to your inbox

Resistance State

Dec. 18, 2017 5:13 pm

Jerry Brown urges a ‘no’ vote on ‘tax monstrosity’

"Painted Lady" Victorians in San Francisco. Photo via Wikimedia
“Painted Lady” Victorians in San Francisco. Photo via Wikimedia
Taxes

With hours left before the House and Senate are expected to vote on a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, Gov. Jerry Brown is rallying Californians to call on their Republican representatives to vote No on a “tax monstrosity.”

The Democratic governor posted a 1-minute message on Monday morning saying the plan will increase the national debt and gives tax breaks to corporations on the backs of states such as California that voted against President Trump. Statewide, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received more than 4.2 million votes than Trump—a nearly two to one margin.

Here’s the full transcript:

How California policy affects you, straight to your inbox

Hi, I’m Governor Jerry Brown.

My message is real simple: The current tax bill in Congress is bad – it’s bad for you and it’s bad for America.

It’s never good to have one party vote one way and the other party vote 100 percent the other way – that’s dividing America at a time when we need unity.

Secondly, it’s going to increase our national debt by more than a trillion dollars. We’re going to have to pay for that for decades to come. It’s not economically healthy, it doesn’t make America strong.

You know what it really does, it gives massive tax breaks to corporations that are flush with billions and billions of dollars.And who’s going to pay for that? People who live in states that voted against Donald Trump. That’s not fair. That’s not treating America as one nation, indivisible, with liberty for all of us.

So please, call your Republican representative and tell them: “Vote no on this tax monstrosity.”

Jerry Brown on Twitter

Call your GOP representative and tell them: Vote NO on this tax monstrosity. #GOPTaxScam https://t.co/dHvgx8QWCh

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield announced last week that members of Congress have agreed to a tax plan that will “deliver higher wages, lower taxes, a simpler system, and a stronger American economy” to President Trump by Christmas.

But the plan does hit wealthy, high-tax states such as California where many middle-class families face high housing costs and rely on deducting high amounts from their state and local taxes. Despite initial plans to eliminate the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction, the final proposal imposes a $10,000 limit on any combination of state and local taxes, including income, property and sales taxes, that can be deducted by a household.

An analysis by the progressive D.C.-think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the change would still impact more than 2 million high-earning households in California. That’s because the average deduction for state and local income taxes alone is nearly $16,000 per return.

Republicans are also lowering the deductible amount of interest paid on mortgage debt to $750,000, which the Brown administration has warned will make it harder to own a home in California. The limit under current law is $1 million.

California city officials have already criticized the bill, saying fewer deductions may force cities to cut back on police, fire, road repairs and other local public services.

“By limiting SALT, taxpayers will be faced with double taxation on hard earned incomes and cities may be forced to reduce services due to cut backs in resources,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities. “With many California cities and residents yet to fully recover from the Great Recession, we’re disappointed that the conferees did not preserve the full SALT deduction.”

So far, only one of California’s 14 GOP House members says he’s voting against the bill because many of his constituents in the coastal communities north of San Diego will face higher tax bills under the plan. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, facing a tough re-election bid, instead took a swipe at state Democrats for “the tax factory in our State Capitol.”

Darrell Issa on Twitter

I will be voting “no” on the final tax plan. The bill agreed to in conference makes some improvements, but the changes do not go far enough to guarantee tax relief for constituents in my district. https://t.co/9SnZdF8die

Economy Reporter
Resistance State

April 12, 2018 4:17 pm

Gavin Newsom says he’d refuse Trump on sending National Guard to the border

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to the Trump administration’s request to beef up the National Guard in states along the Mexico border, fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would not have made the same decision as governor.

But Newsom, who is the front-runner in the race to replace Brown as governor, put a large asterisk on his disagreement with Brown:

How California policy affects you, straight to your inbox

Brown announced Wednesday that he would accept federal funding to add 400 California National Guard members “to combat transnational crime.” But he laid out a long list of conditions in an agreement with federal authorities: The troops will not build a border wall or enforce immigration laws, and the arrangement is approved only until Sept. 30. Brown also specified that when it comes to the state’s National Guard, he is the “commander in chief.”

America’s Commander in Chief responded Thursday on Twitter: “Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!”

Political Reporter
Affordable Care Act

April 9, 2018 6:55 pm

California takes on Texas and Trump over billions of health care dollars

Health care

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra moved today to intervene in a Texas lawsuit aimed at undoing Obamacare. Becerra and 15 other attorneys general joined forces to file their motion to prevent “immediate and irreparable harm,” as Becerra put it, to California and other states.

At stake is an estimated $160 billion in federal dollars for California’s health care system, with a combined potential loss of about $500 billion for 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to Becerra. The Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress repeatedly have tried to unravel or eliminate Obamacare, with mixed results.

“The Affordable Care Act changed the world,” Becerra said. “We can’t and we won’t go back.”

How California policy affects you, straight to your inbox

He pointed out that roughly 5 million people were signed to insurance coverage in California through Obamacare, under the Covered California exchange and the state’s expansion of Medi-Cal ranks. Before Obamacare, he also noted, many health conditions weren’t covered even if patients had insurance, and some patients were denied care based on pre-existing conditions. But all of that changed under the Affordable Care Act.

If Obamacare is overturned, the federal dollars that go with it will evaporate. That includes subsidies for insurance bought through the Covered California exchange, and a large share of the cost for California’s Medi-Cal expansion.

The 16 Democratic attorneys general hope to be allowed to participate fully in the court debate, which affects states outside of Texas.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

“Striking down the Affordable Care Act would cause immediate and irreparable harm to California and the nation,” Becerra said. “If this lawsuit goes forward, it will cause chaos. It’s our intent to protect families in California.”

Texas et al. v. United States et al. argues the Affordable Care Act is no longer valid because the recent tax overhaul by Congress eliminated the requirement that individuals have health insurance or pay a fine. Without that penalty, Obamacare no longer includes a tax imposed by Congress, and that spells the end of it, according to the lawsuit.

“Once the heart of the ACA—the individual mandate—is declared unconstitutional,” the Texas complaint says, “the remainder of the ACA must also fall.”

“The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have devastating consequences for California and the nation,” said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “The (Texas) lawsuit seems frivolous, because Congress modifies existing law all the time, but that does not invalidate the original law being modified.”

Becerra noted that the ACA’s constitutionality already has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The other attorneys general joining the motion to intervene are from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Contributing Writer
Resistance State

April 9, 2018 1:41 pm

Work to get Medi-Cal? California bill says no

Health care

Since the Trump administration said in January that states could require Medicaid recipients to work if they want to continue receiving the benefit, three states have signed on: Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas. Many others are considering it.

California, of course, is walking a different path. State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) is floating a bill to ban work requirements for Medi-Cal recipients. Medicaid is the national health care program for the poor; the California version of it is Medi-Cal.

Hernandez called the federal work-requirement idea “backwards” when introducing his bill. “Now is the time to focus all efforts on covering more people,” he said, “not less.”

How California policy affects you, straight to your inbox

Proponents of the work requirement say it can save money and make recipients accountable for receiving benefits. The whole point of requiring work for non-disabled adults, according to federal guidance, is to promote recipients’ well-being and increase their self-sufficiency.

Critics argue it won’t reach any of those goals and, in fact, might actually cost states money. Erecting a work wall, they say, also would discourage people from getting Medicaid and drop many people who need it.  

 “I’m not sure why adding a work requirement would promote well-being,” said Nadereh Pourat, director of research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “The reality is, the great majority of Medicaid recipients are children or seniors—or they’re part of working families. We can’t assume people who get Medicaid are just sitting on their hands.”

In California, most of the working-age poor on Medi-Cal already do have jobs. According to a California HealthCare Foundation report based on 2016 data, children and seniors make up the vast majority of Medi-Cal recipients. Only about a third are working-age, non-disabled adults.

The majority of those adults, 62% of them, work. Among those not working, almost all (82%) were ill, caring for an ailing family member or going to school.

Costs and taxes remain potential obstacles to a single-payer plan.

Who’s left? The report said 324,000 Californians who didn’t work and were eligible to work were receiving Medi-Cal benefits. That’s about 2.4% of the 13.5 million on Medi-Cal.

If a work requirement would lift those people out of poverty and off Medi-Cal, that would save the state money, right?

That’s a pipe dream, according to Anthony Wright, executive director of the Sacramento-based Health Access, a nonprofit health advocacy group. Wright said a work requirement won’t make jobs appear.

The real way the work-for-Medicaid plan saves money is by cutting back on the number of people who receive benefits, he said. Imposing a lot more paperwork and eligibility requirements would do the trick, he said.

“This will have an impact because of the paperwork and administrative barriers being put up to get coverage. People will fall off coverage as a result,” Wright said. “That’s the hidden agenda.

“Those [work-for-Medicaid] rules would marginalize Medi-Cal as a welfare program, rather than see it as a safety net for all of us,” he said.

The Hernandez bill doesn’t defy federal guidance the same way California’s cannabis and sanctuary laws do—adoption of a Medicaid work requirement is a choice. But it sends a message.

Hernandez has said he’s hoping other states might follow California’s lead. And resistance did crop up in Minnesota, where one legislator sent a message similar to California’s:

Democratic Sen. Tony Lourey recently proposed an amendment to a Republican-backed work-for-Medicaid measure in Minnesota, one that the GOP-controlled Legislature there quickly voted down. It would have required that lawmakers lose their state-funded health care benefits unless they work with some of the people affected by the legislation.

That is, the amendment said legislators must put in some time at, say, the county human services agency when the Legislature was not in session, or they’d lose their state health coverage.

The California bill already has passed the Senate Health committee, which Hernandez chairs, and has been given priority status by the influential Latino caucus. It has no organized opposition and is expected to sail through the Legislature.

Contributing Writer

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest