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.
President Trump today unveiled his proposal to revamp the federal tax code, and state Democrats swiftly pointed out that it could hit Californians particularly hard by revoking a deduction that disproportionately benefits the Golden State.
Short on detail, Trump’s framework calls for the elimination of “most itemized deductions” with the exception of the write-off on mortgage interest payments and charitable giving.
Getting rid of the deduction on state and local tax payments—a tax break that allows taxpayers to write off some of their non-federal taxes—would have little consequence for Red states that have low local taxes. But it would have a major impact on Californians, both because of our higher-than-average state and local tax rates and our sizable population of millionaires (lower earners tend not to take the standard deduction). In 2015, Californians used the deduction to write off nearly $113 billion in earnings.
“Elimination of the state and local tax deduction could lead to an economic downward spiral in California, including the loss of good-paying jobs and cuts to critical public safety and social service programs,” Democratic State Controller Betty Yee said in a statement.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León also chastised the president for possibly eliminating state and local deductions. “President Trump and Republicans in Congress again show where their true priorities lie: making the lives of the rich easier and the lives of working Americans dramatically tougher,” he said in his own statement.
Under Trump’s proposal, however, the standard deduction available to all taxpayers would be nearly doubled. The plan also envisions cutting income taxes on corporations and pass-through businesses, allowing more families to take advantage of the Child Tax Credit, and repealing both the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Estate tax.
That last proposal earned a special call out from Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco.
“California does not have to follow Washington down this foolish path” he said, “but instead we can enact our own estate tax.” Last year Wiener proposed putting a measure on the 2018 ballot that would amend the state constitution to allow a state tax on inheritances over a multimillion-dollar value.
For now, Trump’s proposal is just that—a proposal. Any reforms to the tax code will have to be voted into law by Congress.
Supporters of California’s “sanctuary” policy gathered today outside the U.S. district courthouse in Sacramento, where a federal judge heard arguments over state laws that limit some types of cooperation with immigration authorities. The Trump administration, which filed its suit over the laws in March, is seeking an injunction to halt them. The hearing was held on the same day President Trump issued an executive order rescinding the federal practice of separating migrant families at the U.S. border.
California’s sanctuary law—by limiting how much state and local law enforcement could cooperate with federal immigration agents—engaged in a we-won’t-hold-‘em policy that outraged the Trump administration. Now its federal border patrol agents reportedly have upped the ante.
Those agents have begun refusing to turn over suspects wanted by California law enforcement agencies for crimes such as sexual assault and drug possession, instead either charging them with immigration-related federal crimes or simply deporting them, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.
This latest escalation of the power struggle between the Trump administration and California worries some immigration advocates and legal experts.
“It does seem to be a tit for tat,” said Jean Reisz of the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. “And that doesn’t serve anyone well.”
Jon Rodney of the California Immigrant Policy Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Sacramento, had stronger words: “This move underscores the deeply hypocritical, manipulative and deceptive nature of the federal government’s deportation force.”
At the root of Reisz’ concern is not just the escalation of rhetoric, or any political maneuvering that might be going on. The law is written for its victims, she said, who may not feel they got justice if the accused is sent back home.
“It’s illegal to leave the country if there’s a pending criminal case against you,” Reisz said. Reportedly, convicted felons who were accused of serious crimes such as sex offenses were deported rather than turned over to California police.
The details about these particular deportations isn’t clear—the Times affected Southern California sheriff’s departments declined to comment, saying federal authorities hadn’t provided them enough information to identify which suspects they had refused to transfer.
Some police officers and sheriffs from conservative cities and counties have lambasted California’s sanctuary policy and called for it to be overturned.
Both the state’s sanctuary law and the apparent federal retaliation against it mark a departure from the cooperation that once existed between California police and sheriffs and immigration agents.
We have another lawsuit.
With a new filing this morning, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra brought the state’s total number of legal challenges against the Trump administration to 33. That’s two lawsuits per month since the president assumed office.
The question at issue this time: did the Environmental Protection Agency violate federal procedures when it reversed an Obama-era rule requiring agricultural companies to train their workers about the hazards of pesticides? This is the eighth case brought against the agency or its administrator, Scott Pruitt.
Track all of California’s lawsuits against the Trump administration here.