O'Malley testifies on farm estate tax proposal
Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday urged legislative support for a plan to reduce the tax burden on Marylanders who inherit family farms, testifying before the Senate committee weighing the bill.
"Throughout our state's history, our family farmers have always been an important part of what makes Maryland strong," O'Malley told the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, according to prepared remarks. "With this legislation we can help make sure they will continue to make our state stronger in the future."
The Democratic governor has unexpectedly become an advocate for the farm estate tax bill -- a plan being pushed by two freshmen Frederick County lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Ronald Young and Del. Kathy Afzali.
Afzalia said she won the governor over by cornering him at a recent dinner for farmers, pulling the proposal from her purse and calling it "the greenest bill in the state legislature." O'Malley had planned to testify at the House committee hearing last week, but his aides said scheduling conflicts kept him away.
The proposal would exempt farm heirs from taxes on the first $5 million in estate value and reduce the rate on higher amounts to 5 percent (it's now 16 percent). The heir would be required to continue using the land for agricultural purposes for at least 10 years.
Lawmakers say that in addition to helping farmers, who often are land-rich but cash-poor, the plan helps the environment because farmers would be less likely to sell their valuable land to developers.