WASHINGTON -- President Bush's stated desire to permanently repeal the estate tax took a small step forward when he asked for a permanent extension of his 2001 tax-relief package in his recent federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2004. That package called for the estate tax -- which is opposed by the industry because of the burden it places on those who inherit family-owned businesses -- to be repealed, but only until 2011.
John Motley, senior vice president for government and public affairs, Food Marketing Institute here, said the industry does not expect the president to push aggressively for the permanent repeal of the tax this year amid Democratic opposition.
"The real push comes in 2004," he said, noting that the president's inclusion of the repeal in this year's budget was basically a formality, although he said it would serve to block efforts to prevent the repeal from becoming permanent.
"It clearly shows presidential intent," he said.
Although many people were hoping the estate-tax repeal would end up in the president's economic growth and jobs bill introduced earlier this year, Motley said that by including it in this year's bill, it would likely have only extended the repeal for two years.
"The president is committed not to extending it two years, but doing it permanently, and this is sort of a reaffirmation of that," he said. "That makes us feel a lot better."
Motley said Americans Against Unfair Family Taxation, the coalition of associations and businesses that are working outside Washington to push for repeal of the estate tax through advertising, polling and grassroots activities, recently was reactivated in preparation for more legislative activity surrounding the tax. It had been largely inactive since last summer, he said.
"Everybody thinks we need to breathe a little life into the issue and keep the pot boiling," he said.