House tax plan would hurt many California homeowners, but state GOP members look for the bright side

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), the incumbent in the 25th Congressional District, answers a question during a debate.
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), the incumbent in the 25th Congressional District, answers a question during a debate.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times )

The GOP tax plan unveiled Thursday would be a blow to many California taxpayers. That’s not a deal breaker for California’s Republicans, who so far seem optimistic the bill is the best deal for their constituents.

Even as some Republicans from states that would also lose out under the plan threatened to vote no, Californians’ reactions ranged from merely skeptical to enthusiastic.

Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale was one of the few California GOP members who said he had concerns about the plan before the bill was released. Knight on Thursday said the bill has gotten better, but he’s still looking at it.


“We’re still trying to work through the numbers … and until I do that I can’t say what’s good and what’s not good,” said Knight, who is among the nine California Republicans considered vulnerable in 2018. “A week and a half ago I think you had 10 problems, now you’ve got a couple.”

A big issue is that California has the highest state income tax rate in the nation but among the lowest property tax rates. The bill dramatically scales back a deduction for state and local taxes, limiting the deduction to just property taxes and capping it at $10,000. About a third of California taxpayers took the deduction in 2015.

But Republicans are desperate for a major legislative win before the year is up, and California’s Republicans are acutely aware of that ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. They seem to want to balance keeping a promise about tax reform against doubts raised by people like Gov. Jerry Brown.

Eight of the 14 Republicans commented Thursday, with four saying they are on board with the bill and four saying they are still reviewing the details.

Rep. Ken Calvert of Corona, who is in a seat considered safe for the GOP next fall, responded positively to the plan: “I think it’s moving in the right direction and I’m sure looking forward to supporting the final package when it comes to the floor.”

Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, who represents a strong Republican Northern California district, said he’d rather see the state and local tax deduction stay in place, “but we have to look at it as a total package, and as a total package Californians end up much better off than under the status quo.”


One of the state’s most vulnerable Republicans, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, said he hasn’t looked through the bill yet, but won’t make a decision based on the elimination of one deduction.

“What’s a concern to me is that when all is said and done my constituents are not paying more in taxes because of the effect of the overall bill,” he said. “I have to take the overall bill rather than just parts of it.”

California Democrats lined up at a news conference Thursday to castigate their Republican colleagues for supporting the bill and pointing out how many constituents in each of their districts take the deduction — a message that seemed aimed at the 2018 campaign.

“The Republicans from California have gone straight down the line like lemmings to the sea to vote against the interest of their constituents, against the interest of our state,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

House Republicans plan to begin debating the tax bill in the Ways and Means Committee next week, with amendments and changes expected before it is sent to the House floor. President Trump wants the House to pass it by Thanksgiving, with Senate approval by the end of the year.

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