When Congress returns from summer vacation it will take up debate on a proposal to end federal estate taxes for good. An Iowa group says that would be a bad idea. Betty Ahrens with Iowa Citizen Action Network says ending tax on the estates left by the richest Americans would cost federal revenues, hurting many Iowans.Ahrens says President Bush’s proposed 2006 budget would cut 22-Billion dollars in the year 2010 from federal-aid programs…including 178-Million in programs to Iowa for transportation, homeland security, education, human services, environmental protection and more. Ahrens says only one-point-three of the Iowans who died paid any estate tax in 2003, because it doesn’t affect any but the richest people. Ahrens says the cuts would affect 99-hundred children who’d be cut from Medicaid, a thousand dropped from HeadStart, 2000 who’d lack childcare assistance, and 56-hundred families who’d no longer get nutrition aid under the WIC Women Infants and Children program. The advocacy group says only one-point-three percent of Iowans who died in 2003 paid any estate tax, compared with 27-thousand Iowans the group says would lose vital benefits if the estate tax is repealed. Polk City farmer Aaron Heley Lehman said landowners don’t risk losing farms to estate tax. Lehman says family farmers face a lot of dangers: unpredictable and extreme weather, volatile crop prices, and the growing power of large-scale corporate agriculture. But among the many problems facing family farms, he says “the estate tax is not one of them.” He says they’re put in more jeopardy by federal deficits, cuts to farm programs, Medicaid and nutrition programs. Estate taxes don’t kick in until the amount of an inheritance reaches a million and-a-half dollars — 3-million for couples, and the farmer says that leaves out family farms. Lehman says many proposals to repeal estate tax also wipe out the provisions that recognize farmland’s increased in value, exposing owners to big capital-gains taxes and making it harder to keep the farm in the family. Lehman says advertising and lobbying have been used to create a myth that estate tax threatens family farms, but he says the opposite is true — that losing the revenue from a few wealthy estates would harm many people who count on government programs, including a large number of Iowa farm families. Iowa repealed its estate tax in 1997 but the group says it’s not calling for that tax to be reinstated.
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