S tate Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-York and Dauphin, has it seriously backwards when it comes to the elimination of the state inheritance tax, otherwise known as the "death tax."
Last week, he said he probably would not support the death tax elimination bill recently approved by the state House of Representatives.
The vote was 194-1. Overwhelming.
In a nutshell, the bill that passed the state House would kill the so-called "death tax" for children age 21 or younger who inherit property when a parent dies.
As it stands today, when a parent dies and leaves property to his/her children, adopted children or stepchildren, that transfer is subject to a tax of 4.5 percent.
But the bill, if passed by both houses and signed by the governor, would eliminate that tax bite as long as the recipients are age 21 or younger. Anyone over age 21 would continue to pay the tax.
This piece of legislation is co-sponsored by York County Reps. Seth Grove, R-Dover, and Will Tallman, R-Hanover.
Anyone who thinks it's ridiculous to pay taxes on the transfer of a property at the time of death, please stand up.
It's the old double-whammy -- pay property taxes every year for 40 or 50 years, maybe even 100 years, then when you die, you not only get to pay the property tax for that year, but your children get to pay an additional 4.5 percent death tax on the value of the property.
Clearly, members of the state House -- both sides of the aisle -- think this is an abomination.
But now that the bill is on the Senate side of the General Assembly, Teplitz says he's not in favor of it.
Well, because he thinks the House legislation is "too broad" in scope. Translated -- Teplitz thinks it includes too many people.
Teplitz, by the way, sits on the Senate finance committee in which the bill sits. If it were up to him, the bill would die on the vine right there in committee.
Because he thinks he has a better way to deal with the problem.
Teplitz is not in favor of creating an exception for a narrow segment of society -- in this case, children age 21 or younger -- because all it does is contribute to revenue shortfalls in the state budget.
That results, Teplitz said, in an eventual tax increase for every taxpayer in the state who didn't benefit from the death tax break. He sees that as unfair.
Now keep in mind that this bill does not kill the death tax in every instance -- which I believe would be the most appropriate course of action -- but only for those "children age 21 or younger."
In my mind, that's a fairly narrow segment of society -- "children age 21 or younger."
But Teplitz wants to create an even narrower exception to only include children who are disabled and eligible to receive Social Security benefits tied to the parent's earning history.
Get this now. Teplitz says, "We need to make sure we have good reasons for exemptions."
Like I said, Teplitz is backasswards on this deal. Instead of making sure they (lawmakers) have good reasons for exemptions, I'd suggest the real concern should have been making sure lawmakers had a good reason to assess the death tax in the first place.
Because as I look at it, the only reason for passing the death tax way back when was to assure another source of income for state government.
It's just wrong, and bad public policy to boot.
On the flip side of the discussion in the state Senate, Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury, believes the death tax should be eliminated altogether or, at least, for as many taxpayers as possible.
"I've always been an advocate for doing away with (inheritance tax) period," Waugh said, "for blood kin or any immediate family connection."
And Waugh added, "Whether they're 21 or 45, I don't care."
Would banning the inheritance tax result in lost revenue for the state? Well, of course it would.
But so what?
We shouldn't be operating a government that creates a budget and then scrambles to find a way to exploit people through taxation to pay for it. Instead, we should figure out what reasonable taxation is, how much people can comfortably afford to pay in support of a government, then build the budget from there.
We've got it backwards in this state (and country), and have for a very long time.
Teplitz, and people who think like him, only fuel that fire.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.