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College of Southern Idaho catcher Jordan Freese runs back to home plate after meeting with the pitcher April 7 during the second game of a doubleheader against Salt Lake Community College at Skip Walker Field in Twin Falls.

GOP-targeted deduction used by many tax filers in most states

ATLANTA — A popular deduction targeted in the GOP’s overhaul of the tax code is used by more than a quarter of all filers in a majority of states, including many led by Republicans where some residents eventually could see their federal tax bills rise.

The exact effect in every state isn’t known, in part because of differences in the Senate and House versions of the bill. But the change to the deduction for state and local taxes could alter the bottom lines for millions of taxpayers who itemize.

Residents in high-tax, Democratic-led states appear to be the hardest hit. But some filers also could be left paying more in traditional Republican states, such as Georgia and Utah where about a third of taxpayers claim the deduction.

“It’s a bad deal for middle class families and for most Georgians,” said Georgia state Rep. Bob Trammell, leader of the House Democrats.

He said Republicans are eliminating the state and local deduction to help pay for tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy.

How many winners and losers are in each state depends in large part on another aspect of the Republican tax overhaul that would nearly double the standard deduction — to about $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples.

Republicans say that provision would be a net benefit for most tax filers.

The Tax Policy Center, run by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, has estimated that the number of people itemizing deductions would drop by three-quarters. Some of those taxpayers could get a larger deduction under the Republican plan, even though they no longer could claim a break for state and local taxes.

“Based on what I have seen, it might actually help some Georgians” to replace the state-and-local tax break with a higher standard deduction, said Georgia state Rep. Terry England, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Yet estimates by the Tax Policy Center and a nonpartisan congressional analysis say some taxpayers eventually will end up owing more in federal taxes under the GOP plans.

The left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said changes to the state and local tax deduction under the House bill would contribute to one of every five taxpayers in the hardest hit states getting a higher tax bill. While most of those states are led by Democrats, Republican-led Georgia and Utah, and the swing state of Virginia were among them.

Democratic lawmakers said that any initial tax relief felt by the middle class or working-class families will eventually disappear. In Georgia, for example, an estimated 9 percent of filers would pay higher taxes in 2018, rising to 22 percent by 2027, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The state and local tax deduction is just one of many provisions targeted for change under legislation that passed the House earlier in the week and is pending in the Senate. The House version would repeal the deduction for income and sales taxes while capping the property tax deduction at $10,000. The Senate bill would end deductions for all state and local taxes.

Most tax filers currently take the standard federal deduction of $6,300 per individual or $12,600 for married couples. But some reap larger tax breaks by itemizing deductions for state and local taxes, medical expenses, charitable contributions and interest paid on home mortgages.

The state and local tax break is the largest of those. About 44 million taxpayers claimed deductions totaling about $550 billion for state and local taxes paid in 2015, according to the most recent IRS data.

The top 10 states with the highest average state and local tax deductions all voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year’s election. New York led the way with an average state and local tax deduction of more than $22,000, followed by Connecticut, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

But when analyzed by the percentage of taxpayers claiming the deduction, several states won by Trump rank in the top third nationally. In reliably Republican Utah, 35 percent of taxpayers claimed the deduction for state and local taxes. That figure was 33 percent in Georgia and 31 percent in Wisconsin. Thirty-five states had at least one-quarter of their taxpayers claim the deduction.

Because of its widespread effect, debate over curtailing the deduction already is creeping into competitive 2018 elections.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has warned that repealing the deduction could lead to a tax increase for many state residents.

The left-leaning Wisconsin Budget Project has estimated that the Senate plan overall eventually would leave nearly 300,000 Wisconsin taxpayers with higher federal income taxes. Baldwin said the plan will disproportionally benefit corporations and the wealthiest.

“That’s not right and it’s not fair,” she said during a news conference Friday in Milwaukee.

One of her Republican challengers, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, has signed a letter encouraging the tax repeal. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a tax overhaul supporter who is seeking re-election, has been criticized by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. The group says repealing the deduction would have “the net effect of a massive property tax increase for Wisconsin homeowners.”

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Magic Valley Festival of Giving features Family Day from noon to 5 p.m. and pictures with princesses from 1 to 3 p.m. at Southern Idaho Landscape Center, 21150 Highway 30. Admission is $1 or a canned food item or a new, unwrapped toy.

Ben Curtis 

People gather to demonstrate for the ouster of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe who is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. Zimbabwe's generals, including Constantino Chiwenga, on poster, have placed Mugabe under house arrest and have allowed him limited movement while talks on his exit from office unfold. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Steve Conner  

The Declo Hornets celebrate winning the 2A state football championship Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.

Want a career in ag or food? CSI has $1.6M in scholarships for you

TWIN FALLS — With a $1.6 million donation in hand for agriculture scholarships, the College of Southern Idaho wants to boost the number of students in those programs.

Longtime Reno, Nev.-area rancher Bob Dickenson, who died in 2016, wanted the money to be used specifically for financial assistance for students pursuing agriculture-related degrees.

The CSI Foundation was notified in May it would receive a gift from him, and the money came in October.

CSI officials say the donation will have a huge impact on a large number of students. Now, it wants to boost recruitment efforts, expand certain agriculture-related programs and encourage more students to apply for scholarships.

“Until we have the students to distribute the money to, it will be difficult to distribute that much money,” said Barry Pate, chairman of the CSI agriculture department.

Dickenson — who owned property near Gooding — didn’t want his name on a building and wanted all the money to be spent in 20 years, said Debra Wilson, executive director of the CSI Foundation. “His goal is not for us to sit on it.”

Dickenson also donated to a similar amount of money to the University of Nevada, Reno, for graduate-level agriculture students.

What’s unusual about this major donation: Dickenson wanted the entire amount of the gift — plus interest — to be spent. With expected interest, that’s about $2.5 million — enough for about $128,000 per year in scholarships.

Typically, the principal amount of a major gift is left untouched and just the interest is used.

The CSI Foundation has about $40 million in assets and distributes about $2 million each year in scholarships to students.

CSI’s agriculture department includes degree or certificate programs in agribusiness, animal science, aquaculture, food processing technology, horse management, horticulture, veterinary technology and water resource management.

Dickenson’s donation is for scholarships for students majoring in agriculture, mining or natural resources. CSI doesn’t have a mining program.

The funds are also available for students studying in agriculture-related areas such as food processing, horticulture, agriculture diesel and welding.

Wilson said she met Dickenson in 2012 and he was impressed with CSI’s agriculture program. He started making donations to the foundation after that for scholarships for agriculture students.

Over several years, CSI distributed about $200,000 — mostly, in the form of $1,000 to $2,000 scholarships.

“It has served many, many students,” Pate said, adding the students have been very appreciative.

CSI students seeking assistance filled out the college’s general online scholarship application. The agriculture department reviewed the applications, Pate said, and tried to give some money to every student who applied.

About once a month, Wilson sent thank you notes from students to Dickenson in the mail. “He was really touched,” she said.

Now with the new gift from Dickenson, CSI officials are looking to develop a new application process for agriculture scholarships.

Dickenson was really worried about students going into agriculture not having enough funds to pursue their education, Wilson said.

CSI officials want to recruit high-achieving agriculture students, such as those in FFA, to come to the college and earn a scholarship.

It also plans to work with at-risk students — 12 starting next year — through the college’s summer Bridge to Success program who are starting in agriculture-related programs.

Another possibility: helping workforce development students in agriculture fields who are gaining additional job training, Wilson said.

Pate said he wants to attract top-notch students to CSI who’ll have a big impact in elevating the classroom experience and environment for their peers.

And he wants to grow student numbers in programs such as horticulture, food processing and water resource management.

Here in the Magic Valley, “we wouldn’t be here without agriculture,” Wilson said. But unless students have family members in agriculture, it’s really hard to start a farm, she said.

The funding allows the college to support students entering the agriculture world — and largely, into professions that support the agriculture industry.

“Like the FFA kids say, there’s way more to agriculture than cows and plows,” Wilson said.

CSI officials plan to focus on recruiting into agriculture programs during the yearly state FFA convention at CSI. Typically, more than 1,000 people — including students, teachers and parents — are on campus.

CSI has more than 200 students currently in its agriculture department. The focus, Pate said, is hands-on learning.

That impressed Dickenson and now, his legacy will live on through two decades’ worth of students.