Lincoln: 'Independent voice' | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lincoln: 'Independent voice'

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 4:46 PM

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln's news release today sounds like a rollout of her 2010 campaign theme.

Of course, you could also call someone who votes most of the time against the leadership of the party who nominated her a Republican.

You could also call her a liar.

There's no other way to characterize her remarks about the need for estate tax relief for small businesses and farmers. To repeat just some of the facts: No spouse, however rich, must pay a dime of estate tax on inheritance received from his or her spouse. Beginning Jan. 1 on other inheritances, the first $3.5 million is untaxed, which effectively means a couple can effectively leave $7 million to family without taxes due.

The tax code includes numerous benefits for small businesses and farmers in installment payments of taxes at lower interest rates. In years of searching, nobody has yet found a farm sold on account of estate taxes. The $3.5 million exclusion can be ratcheted up to  higher levels by a raft of estate planning techniques. The repeal of the estate tax would benefit only the very wealthiest people, but that tiny number of Americans control immense wealth and legislators.

A Congressional Budget Office study found a grand total of 65 farm estates nationwide would have owed estate taxes in a 2000 test year under the expanded exemption set to take effect in 2009. In 2004, only 440 estates consisted primarily of farm and family business assets subject to taxes.

Yes, family-owned businesses face some estate tax burdens. Doesn't seem to have hurt the Waltons much. Warren Buffet supports the estate tax. But, boy, would they hit a jackpot if it went away. Which probably explains the Waltons' affection for Lincoln's representation. If she'd only tell the truth about the number of people her tax "relief" would affect. A few hundred in Arkansas each year, at most.

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) continues to be an independent voice for Arkansans, according to a voting record report by the non-partisan publication, Congressional Quarterly (CQ).

“I am proud to represent my fellow Arkansans in the U.S. Senate, and I take the responsibilities they have given me very seriously,” Lincoln said.  “Arkansans are independent-minded, and I vote with their best interests in mind.  I will continue to work on their behalf to ensure our hardworking families—including our military families and veterans—have access to quality and affordable health care, our children benefit from a quality education, and our rural communities receive the economic development investments that are critical to residents’ quality of life.” 

CQ’s vote tally ranks Lincoln fourth among Democratic Senators who least often support their party’s leadership.  Only Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Max Baucus of Montana, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana voted against the Senate Democratic leadership’s position more than Lincoln. 

During her tenure in the United States Senate, Lincoln has demonstrated she is an independent voice for Arkansans. 

Earlier this year, Lincoln helped establish the bipartisan “Gang of 10” after the debate on energy reform between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders reached a stalemate.   Her efforts focused much-needed attention on the issue of high energy prices, helped facilitate passage of important energy tax incentives to promote efficiency and alternative energy sources, and laid the groundwork for further debate in the new Congress in 2009.   Lincoln has said that in order to lessen our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our economy, we need a comprehensive plan that includes a focus on renewable and alternative sources of energy and measures to increase domestic production of oil through responsible drilling.

Through her seat on the Senate Finance Committee, Lincoln has worked with moderates of both parties to provide tax relief for America’s working families.  In 2001, Lincoln worked across the aisle with her Finance Committee colleagues to create a bipartisan tax relief package that provided tax cuts for millions of lower- and middle-income taxpayers.  President Bush’s original plan failed to give almost 50 percent of Arkansas’s wage earners a tax cut.  Lincoln focused on making the child tax credit fully refundable, providing marriage penalty relief for working families; and, as a result of her efforts, an additional 140,000 Arkansas families–who would have been left out of the initial Bush proposal–received tax relief under the bipartisan compromise package.  

In addition, Lincoln has been a strong advocate for estate tax reform and believes in a long-term solution that will provide meaningful and permanent relief for family-owned farms and businesses.  

“I’ve long argued that the estate tax is an unfair burden on small businesses and farmers that penalizes the behaviors we should be encouraging—working, saving, and investing,” Lincoln said.  “Our small businesses are the economic engines and sources of jobs for our communities and they need certainty, not more pressure in these difficult times.  As the Senate Finance Committee examines tax reform next year, I don’t believe a temporary extension of 2009 law is enough to give our small businesses the certainty they need.”   

In 2003, Lincoln supported the Medicare Modernization Act, which added prescription drug coverage (“Part D”) to Medicare.  Lincoln was one of a handful of Democratic congressional members to support the bill.  Lincoln pointed to expanded coverage for seniors in Arkansas coupled with a strong rural health care section as key reasons for her support.

“The prescription drug plan was the right thing to do for our nation’s seniors,” Lincoln said.  “The bill was not perfect, but it made prescription drug coverage a reality for Arkansas’s 500,000 Medicare beneficiaries.  I worked to make necessary improvements to Medicare Part D prior to its implementation in 2006, and I continue to propose legislative fixes to ensure it is the best program it can be for beneficiaries, particularly our low-income seniors, and for providers alike.”

Early in the implementation of Part D, pharmacists had to take out loans in order to fund the up-front capital they needed to cover prescription drug costs until the Part D plan reimbursement stabilized.  Lincoln was instrumental in passing legislation to insure that the insurance companies pay pharmacists promptly for their Medicare Part D claims.  Also, Lincoln has been instrumental in securing funding for the Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and Senior Health Insurance Information Programs (SHIIPs) to provide Medicare Part D outreach to beneficiaries in need of assistance.

CQ’s “Senators in the Middle” rankings are based on votes analyzed during the seven and a half years of the Bush presidency through July 18, 2008.



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