Members of the Senate today indicated that they want to reduce estate taxes without eliminating estate taxes.
Senators delivered that message through votes on a series of amendments to a non-binding budget resolution.
Senators voted 99-1 for a proposal introduced by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to set the estate tax at the 2009 level–with a $3.5 million individual exemption and a 45% maximum tax rate for estates that must pay the tax–and index the exemption for inflation.
A second proposal, to create a reserve fund that would permit the government to increase the individual estate tax exemption to $5 million and cut the maximum tax rate to 35%, lost on a 38-62 vote.
Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., introduced that proposal.
Several senators, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., say they prefer the Salazar proposal. Those senators contend that freezing the estate tax exemption and maximum tax rate at the 2009 level would not do enough to protect small businesses and family farms.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., introduced a proposal that would have set the estate tax exemption at $5 million with a maximum tax rate of 35%.
The Kyl proposal lost on a 50-50 vote.
Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted with the Republicans
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, voted with the Democrats.
The vice president can break ties in the Senate, but he was not present at the time of the vote.