Several IBEW families are among thousands who have lost their homes to deadly wildfires that devastated northern California in October and ignited near Los Angeles in early December, propelled by hurricane-strength winds.
victims struggle to assess their losses and recover, and IBEW members work
tirelessly in dangerous conditions to restore utility services, House
Republicans continue to push for a tax bill provision repealing personal
casualty deductions for Americans when disasters claim their homes.
The language showed up in the House version of the tax bill shortly after the northern fires left 43 people dead, destroyed 8,400 homes and caused billions in damage. It exempted victims of the September hurricanes but not Californians whose homes burned. From Capitol Hill to newspaper editorial boards, outraged critics blasted it as a transparent attempt to punish residents of the country’s largest blue state.
|Homeowners could be unable to deduct the losses from fire damage if Republicans in Congress get their way. This home in the Ojai Valley, just a few doors down from Tilmont's, was a total loss from the Thomas Fire, which has consumed more than 270,000 acres and is on track to be California’s largest. It was only 50 percent contained as of Dec. 19.
The tax bill – if passed, likely today – wouldn’t take effect until 2018, meaning disaster victims this year are still eligible for the deduction, “as long as they scramble to figure out all of their uninsured losses and make sure they’re tabulated correctly on their tax returns,” a Santa Rosa Press-Democrat editorial explained, adding, “Residents who have lost homes have enough on their plate without having to worry about taking advantage of a deduction – one that’s being eliminated to make room for deep tax cuts for large businesses and the ultra-rich.”
California’s entire House delegation, 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans, has introduced a bill that would give fire victims another full year to calculate and deduct their losses.
The Senate version of the tax bill allows the personal casualty deduction for victims of federally-declared disasters but not for those who lose homes in smaller disasters.
The disaster loss language is among the topics in talks to reconcile the House and Senate tax bills. A Democratic congressman from California told the Associated Press that neither option is acceptable.
“Why would we treat two people who both lost homes of equal value differently, because one lost their home on a day when 15 other people lost homes and another when 200 lost their home?” Rep. Brad Sherman asked.
Republicans are pushing to end reconciliation talks and hold swift House and Senate votes on the bill’s final version before lawmakers leave later this week for their Christmas vacations.
There’s still time to make your voice heard on this issue or
other troubling aspects of the tax bills. For House members, call (202)
225-3121. For senators, (202) 224-3121. Switchboard operators will connect you
to individual offices.