California’s fire season is here, and Cal Fire is urging homeowners to be prepared. Last year was California’s most destructive fire season on record, causing more than $10 billion in damages.
And 2018 might be as bad, or worse. Through mid-May, Cal Fire had already responded to more fires that burned more acreage than they had at this point in 2017.
Last year, while wildfire survivors were recovering from the Thomas fire and other fires in California, Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) was thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., voting for a provision in Congress that would have repealed a key tax deduction for victims of wildfires.
“The House Republican tax bill would eliminate the deduction for personal losses from wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, but keep the break for victims of the recent severe hurricanes,” the L.A. Times reported.
The reaction from California’s two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, was swift and harsh.
After the worst fire season in California history, it’s unbelievable that Republicans are considering eliminating the tax deduction for losses suffered during a natural disaster. Asking victims of wildfires or earthquakes to suffer in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich is the height of cruelty.
Knight abandoned victims of wildfires, but the bill he voted for did plenty to curry favor with the wealthy elite. For example, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans will see an average break of $193,000. Wealthy corporations and Wall Street banks are seeing their profits soar by billions of dollars.
And one of the ways Knight wants to help pay for those tax breaks to billionaires was to deny a tax break to Californians in his own district recovering from devastating wildfires.
Fellow Californian and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was outraged that members like Knight would vote for this provision. According to the L.A. Times:
“They actually voted for that bill,” Pelosi said during her weekly news conference. “[The members] voted to discriminate against victims of fire. We certainly want to have the deduction for victims of hurricanes and the rest, but why are they doing this to our state?”
While Knight wholeheartedly supported the Republican version of the tax bill that abandoned wildfire victims, Congress eventually passed a bill protecting wildfire victims in the same ways as victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Looking forward to 2018, one veteran firefighter worried the worsening of fire season is going to be the “new normal,” a term the New York Times noted is “commonly applied to the state’s drastically worsening fire seasons as a result of cyclical drought, climate change and the ceaseless drive to populate fire-prone areas.”
Hopefully, for the sake of wildfire victims, being abandoned by their members of Congress won’t be part of this “new normal.”