Representatives riled up about estate-tax measure

DENVER – Colorado has not received money from estate taxes since 2004, but Republicans are still pushing a bill to repeal the estate tax law.

Congress has suspended the federal estate tax – which Republicans have dubbed the “death tax” – until at least 2013. But the lack of any real money did not keep a state House committee from a heated and colorful discussion Wednesday.

The sponsor, Rep. Mark Barker, calls his bill a message to Congress to repeal the federal estate tax permanently.

“If we do this at our end and we send this message to our Congress in Washington, D.C., they may follow through with what they’re doing and end this onerous tax and perhaps save jobs, save businesses, stimulate the economy,” said Barker, R-Colorado Springs.

The House Finance Committee passed his bill 7-6.

Colorado does not collect estate taxes, but it takes a cut of federal collections if the national tax is in effect. Barker’s bill would have Colorado decline its payment from the federal government.

If it passes and the estate tax goes back into effect, it would not cut taxes for any Coloradan, because the federal government simply would keep Colorado’s share.

“This bill does nothing for the citizens of the state of Colorado. It makes a philosophical statement that I think will fall on deaf ears,” said Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot.

With neither the state nor the national tax in effect, representatives spent their time Wednesday in a familiar philosophical debate.

“I despise the estate tax. I think it is one more tax we impose on people for being successful,” said Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, had a different opinion.

“I see this as nothing more than a tax break for millionaires,” Pabon said.

Broomfield Republican Don Beezley said he thinks the estate tax mostly hits family businesses.

“There’s this bizarrely perverse idea that if somebody’s worth $5 million or $10 million or $100 million, they’re somehow in the backyard rolling around in C-notes snorting coke or something. If they’re a Hollywood liberal, that may be the case. But the fact is the majority of these are small businesses,” Beezley said.

The bill now goes to the full House, which is under GOP control. It will encounter a less friendly audience in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

jhanel@durango herald.com

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