The Huffington Post broke news today that California Rep. Xavier Becerra signed an affidavit claiming, for tax purposes, that his second home in Maryland is his primary residence. After Becerra purchased the $1 million Chevy Chase home, he took advantage of the homestead tax credit and saved roughly $4,000. According to a spokesman for the congressman, the legal designation is permissible because the tax breaks were claimed by his wife. The HuffPo article mentions three other instances of congressmen–including California’s Pete Stark–of claiming similar out-of-state residences for tax breaks.
Whether this is all legal mumbo-jumbo or a serious matter, it exposes one of the many reasons Americans have reason to be so suspicious of their elected representatives. When voters send one of their own to represent them in Sacramento or Washington, DC, they expect that legislator to still be a member of their community. Using voters as a stepping stone to power and influence on the other side of the country and forgetting where you came from is the very definition of politician.
Perhaps Congressman Becerra does have a legitimate claim to “residence” in Maryland because his family has put down roots there. And maybe his constituents are satisfied with the amount of time he spends in the district. But many politicians are guilty of maintaining a home in the district just for appearances and legal purposes, and then spending all their time in the capitol. It’s a disservice to the actual residents of the district and it shows where politicians’ true priorities lie.
Another issue raised by this story is how members of congress seem to take advantage of the tax laws they write to their benefit. While so many Democrats demonize “the rich” for “not paying their fair share,” they sure do know how to save a few bucks when it comes to their own tax bills. Wouldn’t it just have been easier for Becerra and his Democrat peers to pay the extra few thousand dollars? I mean, the country’s in financial dire straits right now and that money could certainly have helped. And Becerra and his more-than-responsible peers would be in charge of spending those tax dollars, so he knows it would be in good hands.
Becerra was recently named to the “Super Congress” committee charged with cutting $1.5 trillion of the nation’s debt. Obviously Becerra knows how to take advantage of the tax law so maybe he’ll find some creative ways to save the rest of us poor taxpayers some money too.
Also, kudos to HuffPo for investigating a politician who shares their political ideology. True journalism doesn’t play favorites, but treats all equally.