WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) won’t be meeting with a group of business owners who want him to change his position opposing repeal of the federal death tax. Daschle’s Aberdeen, South Dakota staff refused to schedule a meeting for the senator with the group of business owners from across South Dakota during the August recess.

Dick Patten, Executive Director of the American Family Business Institute was surprised by Daschle’s unwillingness to even discuss the issue. He told Talon News, “Many of these people have supported Daschle in the past, but are now reconsidering.”

Patten pointed out that these people “are not simply 50 votes, they are 50 business owners.” He continued, “This group of business owners represents 50 businesses that provide 3,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in sales.”

“Daschle should not feel comfortable about the upcoming campaign,” Patten added. “What you are reading in the polls about his declining approval ratings reflects what is happening in South Dakota’s business community.”

A July poll showed Daschle leading potential opponent John Thune 47 to 46 percent. However, many election experts believe it is a significant negative for an incumbent to poll below 50 percent.

Patten was in South Dakota recently to generate support for repeal of the death tax. His organization maintains that the death tax is devastating to small businesses and family farms. Heirs must pay the tax in cash within nine months following the death of the owner. In many cases, businesses and farms must be sold to pay the tax that can be as high as 55 percent.

“The issue is particularly important in South Dakota since it doesn’t have a corporate hub. Most businesses are small companies and family farms,” Patten said.

In a Talon News interview with Jim Martin, President of 60 Plus, a senior citizen advocacy group, Martin recalled Daschle’s comments on a repeal of the death tax. Martin quoted the senator as saying, “We’re not in the business of bailing out billionaires.”

“Daschle’s words reek of cynicism,” Martin added. “He knows that billionaires know how to avoid the death tax, that the burden falls on small businesses.”

A spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform told Talon News, “Daschle’s opposition to the death tax repeal is hypocritical considering South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment to repeal their state’s tax on inheritances in 2000.”

“Their death tax was repealed by a 80 to 20 margin, so Daschle’s vote in Washington doesn’t reflect the strongly held view of his constituents,” the ATR spokesman added.

Sioux Falls businessman and Republican senate candidate Neal Tapio told Talon News, “It’s just one more example of how Daschle is out of touch with the people of South Dakota.”

“His comments on the eve of war, votes against the President’s tax relief package, and filibuster of qualified judicial nomination, demonstrate a voting record that doesn’t reflect the values of those he is supposed to represent,” Tapio said.

“90% of the businesses in South Dakota are small businesses and family farms and the death tax is killing them,” Tapio added. “Daschle will support ethanol on one hand but on the other hand will punish the next generation of farmers and small business people.”

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