GOP voters’ approval of congressional Republicans spiked as the tax bill was finalized

GOP voters approve of their own party’s congressional contingent for the first time since June, CNN reported Saturday, citing a new Quinnipiac University poll. The shift in Republicans’ views correlates with the release of the completed GOP tax plan on Friday after conference between House and Senate leadership. Before the legislation was finalized, 60 percent of GOP voters disapproved of congressional Republicans; now a plurality of 47 percent approve.

(CNN)

“Political analysts say it’s all about the 2018 midterm elections,” The Washington Post reports, because “most Americans are getting a tax cut under this plan, and if growth gets even hotter and unemployment gets even lower by Election Day, voters could reward the GOP.” However, critics argue the reform plan’s supporters are unrealistically optimistic in their projections of the bill’s effects on economic growth.

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Source:: The Week – Business

New, $1 billion program will bring rooftop solar to California renters

SACRAMENTO — Over the next decade, roughly 150,000 low-income renters in California will see their apartment buildings outfitted with solar panels — and their electricity bills drop.

Regulations approved this week cleared the way for the state to spend $1 billion over 10 years — using proceeds from the state’s landmark climate-change program — on incentives for landlords to install rooftop solar panels on apartment buildings housing low-income residents.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about why we can’t get rooftop solar in the communities that need it most,” said Shana Lazero, legal director for the Richmond-based Communities for a Better Environment, which was part of a coalition that co-sponsored the solar legislation. “One of the hardest nuts to crack is the rental market. It’s a huge step to solving one of the biggest pieces of the problem.”

From costly solar panels to costlier Teslas, renewable energy is often associated with environmentally conscious elites — not poor families who live near factories and crowded freeways, suffering the most from the side-effects of a fossil fuel economy. In fact, a common criticism of California’s early climate-change approach was that the poor and working class were paying more to subsidize the electric vehicles and solar panels of the wealthy — “and there was some truth to that,” said Ethan Elkind, a UC Berkeley law professor who directs the school’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.

But in recent years, Elkind said, the state Legislature has tried to democratize its climate-change initiatives by investing more in those hit hardest by pollution.

“There are strong moral reasons to do that. There are strong economic reasons, too,” he said. “We want more people in California, particularly low-income people in disadvantaged communities, to feel a stake in the state’s climate programs and receive benefits from them.”

To qualify for the program, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business

Judge temporarily blocks Trump contraception rule

A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary injunction against the Trump administration’s modification of ObamaCare’s contraception mandate.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to pay for birth control as part of employee health plans, with limited exemptions. The Trump White House issued a new rule expanding those exemptions to allow almost any business to decline to offer contraception coverage for religious or moral reasons.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone of Pennsylvania wrote in her opinion that the rule could cause “enormous and irreversible” harm, worrying that employers could seek to drive women out of the workplace entirely by changing their coverage policies.

While Beetlestone argued it “is difficult to comprehend a rule that does more to undermine the Contraceptive Mandate or that intrudes more into the lives of women,” religious liberty advocates argue that business owners with sincere religious or moral opposition to birth control methods — like the morning-after pill, which can stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall — should not be forced to offer coverage.

…read more

Source:: The Week – Business

Here’s how to save money by getting ahead of the GOP tax bill

As the GOP tax bill sped toward victory Friday, word spread about a tax plan “life hack” that could save Bay Area residents thousands of dollars if done quickly.

The move is simple: Submit your upcoming property tax payment before the end of the year, instead of waiting until the due date, and you may get a bigger deduction than you will after the tax overhaul goes into effect in 2018.

That idea became especially relevant after the tax plan got support Friday from two Republican leaders who had been on the fence — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — giving the GOP the votes it needs.

Submitting an early property tax payment may not benefit everyone, said Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, but it’s an option worth considering.

“Follow the legislation,” he said. “Talk to your CPA, and don’t do it until, one, the legislation is final, and your CPA advises you that you get a benefit.”

Julie Manaois, chief deputy tax collector for Alameda County, also suggested residents consider filing early.

That’s because the tax overhaul, which appears set to pass next week, will allow people to claim deductions on property taxes and state and local income taxes only up to $10,000. That could mean a significant blow to Bay Area residents, many of whom now write off much more than that.

But pay your property taxes now, before the bill goes into effect, and that payment won’t count toward the cap, tax experts say. Instead, it will be fully deductible this year, assuming you itemize your deductions.

Property taxes are divided into two yearly payments, the second of which is due April 10 in Santa Clara County. But there’s nothing to prevent property owners from turning in the payment early.

The owner of a home assessed at $1 million, for example, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business

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