Health & Fitness

Merced official wants to end ‘$300 million sin subsidy’ for wealthy California gamblers

Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, says he has a plan to improve the health and clean the drinking water of Central San Joaquin Valley residents by ending a gambling tax deduction that mostly benefits the rich.

The Inland California Healthy Communities Act would close what Gray calls a “loophole” that costs the state more than $300 million per year and benefits fewer than 150,000 people, primarily millionaires and billionaires, according to a news release.

In California, gamblers are allowed to deduct their losses from the state income tax they pay every year. The state conforms to the same gambling deduction standards as the federal government.

“This is a $300 million sin subsidy for the rich,” Gray said. “If Congress wants to pay to subsidize gamblers that’s their business, but we have families in California who cannot safely drink the water in their homes or get in to see a doctor.”

An estimated 360,000 Californians are served by water systems with unsafe drinking water, according to a McClatchy analysis last year of data compiled by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The new tax money would be aimed at cleaning up the toxic drinking water of the Valley and the Inland Empire, the release said, as well as continue to fund the partnership between UC Merced and hospitals aimed to open a medical school in the Valley.

“We have dreamed of establishing a medical school in the San Joaquin Valley for more than 20 years,” Gray said. “As one of the fastest growing regions of the state, we must address our long-standing doctor shortage before things get even worse.”

The Valley has the lowest ratio of licensed doctors, specialized nurses, marriage and family therapists, counselors, and social workers in the state, according to a 2017 UCSF report. The Valley has 157 doctors per 100,000 people; the Bay Area has 411.

If the act is included in the state budget, gamblers would no longer be able to deduct losses from their state taxes though the losses could still be deducted from their federal obligations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has shown signs he is amenable to finding a solution to the problems with inland drinking water. In January, he visited Stanislaus County to meet with residents who live near contaminated wells.

“I made a point to emphasize that it’s a disgrace that in a state as wealthy and resourceful as ours that a million-plus people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water,” he said.

Gray’s plan also calls for an expanded budget for the UC Riverside School of Medicine.

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