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House raises estate tax exemption; Mizeur protests

With a bipartisan vote of 120-13, the House of Delegates passed a bill Friday to raise the estate tax exemption threshold over the next five years.

Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, was the only lawmaker who spoke in opposition of the legislation Friday before the final House before the vote was taken.

“It’s conservative propaganda to suggest that we have to pass this legislation in order to hold onto millionaires in Maryland,” said Mizeur, who is running for governor. “The only result of this bill will be to exacerbate the income inequality gap that exists in our state. This is the exact opposite of progress.”

Two delegates, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, and Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, followed Mizeur to speak in favor of the bill.

“Seven years and 80 tax and fee increases later, I’m surprised that one small tax reduction would cause this much outrage,” McMillan said. “It’s really sad that in Maryland you have to die to get a tax break now.”

Earlier in the week, the House Ways and Means Committee heard the original legislation; it was then sent to the House the next day with amendments. The original bill proposed to immediately raise the current $1 million tax exemption level in four annual increments of $1.75 million, $2.5 million and $3.5 million before reaching the federal level, which currently stands at $5.34 million, by Jan. 1, 2017.

Alterations to the bill lengthened the timeline and lowered the incremental thresholds. The finalized legislation proposes an annual increase, beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, in amounts of $1.5 million, $2 million, $3 million and $4 million before reaching the federal level by Jan. 1, 2019.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has not yet voted on the bill. If passed by the Senate, the legislation will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has not indicated whether he will veto the bill or sign it into law.

-Sarah Tincher, CNS

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