Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dino Rossi is concerned about the burden that the revival of the federal estate tax -- often called the "death tax" by its opponents -- would impose.
"The human cost is huge," Rossi said Tuesday at a Pasco farm where he met with area farmers to hear their views on the tax's impact.
Small-business owners can't bequeath their property to their spouse and children without possibly selling a large part of it, he said. The tax could lead to closure of small business operations and cause a lot of pain to families and their communities, Rossi said.
The estate tax on property, including personal and business assets, is due to reset to 55 percent on assets of more than $1 million in 2011, unless Congress acts to change that.
Under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the estate tax rate was gradually reduced, and the amount exempted was increased. It also created a temporary repeal of the estate tax from Dec. 31, 2009, to Jan. 1, 2011.
But that is about to change, leaving a huge tax bill for those who inherit property, Rossi said.
If the tax repeal is made permanent, 33,000 new jobs will be created in Washington, Rossi claimed. Small family farms and businesses will be able to use the money in more productive ways, he said.
And he accused Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., of ignoring the issue.
"She has voted against the repeal eight times," Rossi said. "Real lives are affected by this."
The estate tax should be repealed, said David Drouhard, 56, a Basin City farmer who was diagnosed with renal cancer a year ago. How can the government make you pick a year to die, Drouhard asked. "I still have cancer."
He said he called Murray's office to talk about the issue, but never heard back. "We are in limbo."
He said he understands the previous Republican administration couldn't make the cut permanent because of some Senate procedural rules.
Drouhard's estate is valued at $2.5 million, and to pay a 55 percent tax, his family would have to sell the farm, he said. He said he doesn't understand why farmers should give up their property to pay the federal government. "We have worked hard all our lives."
The estate tax is ridiculous, said farm owner Brenda Alford of Pasco. Alford said her father-in-law passed on the farm to her husband Bryan and her. She said she wants to do the same for her children and grandchildren.
The Alfords farm on about 2,000 acres in Franklin and Benton counties. "We work hard. We take risks. We pay taxes. Why should the federal government take from us?" Alford asked.