WASHINGTON -- Industry association executives have unanimously and overwhelmingly praised last week's 62-38 Senate vote approving President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut plan, which includes repeal of the estate tax, widely referred to by its opponents as the "death tax."
Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute here, said, "Today's Senate vote to cut taxes -- especially to repeal the estate tax and cut the income tax rates -- is a great victory for family businesses, providing even more benefits than many people may realize.
"The death tax doesn't affect just a few wealthy estates. It affects every family business in America, forcing them to pay life insurance premiums and estate planning fees that public companies do not have to pay.
"This is unfair and unnecessary. Putting that money to productive use would provide an immediate stimulus to the U.S. economy."
Commented John Block, president and CEO, Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., "We're looking forward to the committee conference to see what happens, as there can still be some changes. But this is really the biggest tax cut in 20 years."
Tom Zaucha, president and CEO, National Grocer's Association, Reston, Va., said, "This is one of the most significant competitive opportunities for independent operators.
"This vote affords a source of motivation for family-owned businesses to continue to fight."
Zaucha added that the Senate vote could have important political implications.
"We have finally broken the partisan barrier in a big way with this vote," he said. "It is no longer Republicans vs. Democrats. We have achieved bipartisan support for the family-owned business, and the success really reflects the efforts of grassroots lobbying."
Block told SN, "Our members and the food industry as a whole helped to mobilize grassroots pressure and make sure Congress understood that by supporting the tax-cut package, it was supporting the will of the people.
"To win big like this you really need to come together. We put together a coalition of more than 1,000 trade associations. The unity shown here was amazing."
Under the plans passed last week by the Senate and earlier by the House, the estate tax will not be completely eliminated until 2011. Industry executives and association leaders have vowed to urge Congress to speed up estate tax repeal.
Hammonds said, "As pleased as we are with the Senate action, the job is not yet finished. We now urge the House-Senate conferees to speed up repeal in the final tax-cut package."
Block said FDI will also step up efforts to quicken the pace of estate tax repeal while the plan is in committee.