By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Jeremy@MarylandReporter.com
Though hes listed as chief sponsor of a bill that would cut Marylands estate tax, Senate President Mike Miller said Wednesday he only reluctantly supports his legislation, and its House equivalent, which delegates passed last week.
But, Miller said, it is important to keep Marylands rate competitive to those of other states.
The fact is that were not [just] losing people to Florida, Miller said, after the Senate gave preliminary approval to
Were losing to Delaware, were losing to Virginia, North Carolina, were losing to Tennessee. I wish those states hadnt abolished their estate tax, but they have. Were in competition to keep our Marylanders home.
I understand the arguments against this bill, and theyre legitimate arguments, but if you look globally
theres some very good reasons to support this bill.
Currently, an estate valued at $1 million is taxed by the state after the owner dies and the property changes hands. Known as the death tax, opponents of the tax argue that it causes wealthy Marylanders to flee the state when they retire.
If signed by the governor, the legislation would gradually increase the threshold under which the estate tax applies. By 2019, the state would match the federal exclusion level and only apply the tax on estates greater than $5.3 million.
Bill draws support across party lines
Millers comments are slightly contrary to the position General Assembly leadership has been espousing
from early on in the session. Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch have been outspoken in their support of the legislation, Busch signing on to sponsor the House version of the bill,
HB 739, which
passed in the House with a 120-13 vote.
The Senate also tentatively approved HB 739 during the Wednesday session.
The bills have garnered significant support across party lines, with 34 other senators sponsoring SB 602.
Democratic senator raises questions
Prince Georges Democrat Sen. Paul Pinsky and Sen. David Brinkley, R-Carroll and Frederick, also had a back-and-forth exchange on the bill, prompting Miller to ask them to be gentle with each other.
Pinsky raised questions about the details of the bill with Democratic Majority Leader Sen. James Robey from Howard County, the bills floor leader, who looked to Brinkley to answer.
To the gentleman from Prince Georges county, if you stand at the Potomac River, spread your arms out and look south, thats where most of the money has migrated, Brinkley said.
You dont have to sell me on the bill, Pinsky said. I asked a factual question.
After asking his questions, Pinsky said he would wait to comment further until the Senate had final votes on the bills. Those vote have not yet been scheduled but will likely occur in the next few days.