California voters have rejected Proposition 15, an initiative to roll back a four-decade-old limit on property tax increases. Approval would have been a significant victory for labor and progressive groups by undoing a portion of Proposition 13, a landmark 1978 law that has long been considered politically untouchable.
The Associated Press called the result of the Nov. 3 vote on the measure on Tuesday night, when the count was 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent against it.
Proposition 15 would have amended the state’s Constitution to retain the tax shield for residential owners but remove it for commercial properties, like offices and industrial parks. A nonpartisan state agency estimated that the measure would yield $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion a year for public schools, community colleges and city and county governments.
The initiative was backed by a number of public employees’ unions and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization founded by Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan. They pitched it as a tax on large corporations and a needed investment in public services when the economy and budgets are under stress.
The measure’s opponents included a number of business associations and large property owners like the Blackstone Group. They said the proposition would hurt small businesses and open the door to raising taxes on residential properties as well.
Both sides spent heavily. Proponents raised $67 million and opponents raised $75 million.
Proposition 13 was a reaction to the rising property values — and by extension rising taxes — in the inflationary 1970s. It limited tax increases to 2 percent a year, unless the property was sold.
The law remains popular with homeowners, but it has created a wildly unequal system in which it is not uncommon for someone to pay two or three times as much in property tax as a neighbor with a similar home.
The 1978 initiative, which is widely credited with fomenting a nationwide tax revolt, was heralded as relief for homeowners, with little mention of the benefits for corporate property owners. In the decades since, however, some of its biggest beneficiaries have been corporations like the Walt Disney Company and Chevron, whose properties are assessed at valuations set decades ago.
Two critical unemployment programs are set to expire at the end of the year, potentially leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to eviction and hunger and threatening to short-circuit an economic recovery that has already lost momentum, writes The New York Times’ Ben Casselman.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s at stake:
As many as 13 million people are receiving payments under the programs, which Congress created last spring to expand and extend the regular unemployment system during the pandemic.
Leaders of both major parties have expressed support for renewing the programs in some form, but Congress has been unable to reach a deal to do so. It remains unclear how the results of Tuesday’s election will affect prospects for an agreement.
The programs are some of the last vestiges of the trillions of dollars in aid that included direct checks to most U.S. households, $600 a week in supplemental unemployment benefits and hundreds of billions of dollars in support for small businesses.
Much of that assistance expired over the summer, however. Economic gains have slowed significantly since then, and studies have found that millions of Americans fell into poverty as aid dried up.
The year-end benefits cliff could be even more damaging. Many families have depleted any savings they built when the $600 supplement was available. A partial federal eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, although it could be extended. And benefits checks won’t just shrink, as they did over the summer — they will disappear.
“The safety net still has kind of held up until now, and I think we have been maybe lulled into a sense of complacency,” said Andrew Stettner, an expert on unemployment benefits at the Century Foundation, a progressive policy research group.
Lael Brainard, a leading contender to be President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Treasury secretary, has opposed the Federal Reserve’s regulatory changes 20 times since 2018. As the sole Democrat on the Fed’s Board of Governors in Washington, Ms. Brainard has used her position to draw attention to efforts to chisel away at bank rules.
But her quiet persistence — and her data-driven approach to policy — have helped her to do that while winning respect (and sometimes buy-in) from her Republican counterparts, The New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek reports. That skill could make her an attractive pick for the Treasury’s top job.
Others rumored to be under consideration include Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Fed governor who served as deputy Treasury secretary during the Obama administration; Janet L. Yellen, the former Fed chair; Roger Ferguson, the president and chief executive of the retirement financial manager TIAA, who was the first Black vice chair of the Fed; Mellody Hobson, the co-head of Ariel Investments, an asset manager; and Raphael Bostic, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Any of those choices would bring a significant change to the Treasury Department, which has been run by a white man throughout its 231-year history. But Ms. Brainard has long been seen as a leading contender for the job.
Here are a few highlights from Ms. Brainard’s career.
The daughter of a Foreign Service officer during the Cold War, Ms. Brainard, 58, was raised in Communist Poland and Germany before reunification. She studied at Wesleyan University, and then went on to an economics doctorate at Harvard University.
In the 1990s, she worked for the National Economic Council during the Clinton administration. She then served as the Treasury’s under secretary for international affairs during the Obama administration.
Mr. Obama nominated Ms. Brainard to the Fed in 2014. Some saw her as a likely contender for Treasury secretary had Democrats won the 2016 election.