- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

Two Virginia Senate Democrats who had voted to repeal the estate tax yesterday said they would support Gov. Mark Warner's veto of the legislation, which would have ended the posthumous tax on millionaires' estates.
The switched votes of state Sens. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller of Arlington County and W. Henry Maxwell of Newport News practically ensure that an attempt by the Republican-led legislature to override the Democratic governor's veto would fail.
Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene April 2 to consider Mr. Warner's four vetoes and 87 amendments.
"I just found out more about it. I learned how few people benefited from it," Mrs. Puller said, explaining why she changed her vote. "We just don't have the money in this state at this point in time."
Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said the governor is pleased by the senators' newfound support, but said he won't celebrate until after the vote goes his way next week.
Miss Qualls said Mrs. Puller and Mr. Maxwell agreed with the governor's reasoning for vetoing the bill that cutting taxes would put the state in a rough financial position, what with the war in Iraq and an already-crunched budget. Mr. Warner vetoed the bill Monday, hours before the midnight deadline, saying it would take $211 million from state revenue.
"After the furious action in the Senate, people had a chance to look at issues in greater detail and thought about the bill," she said.
Miss Qualls said the governor supports reforming the state's taxing system, including the "death tax," but not in these tough times.
Republicans say the estate tax is unfair to small farmers and business owners, and the tax repeal was a key initiative in their agenda.
A two-thirds vote of the legislature is needed to override a veto 27 of the 40-member Senate and 67 of the 100-member House of Delegates. The Senate voted 28-12 to repeal the estate tax; if no other votes are switched, an override vote would fail 26-14.
Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax County Republican, said Monday after hearing that Mr. Warner would veto the bill that there's a 50-50 chance that the General Assembly would override.
Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., a James City Republican who sponsored the estate-tax repeal, told the Associated Press that he was surprised by the Democrats' switch, but added that other votes could change in the coming week.
"There are still one or two other suspects out there," Mr. Norment said. "I haven't worked it, but I am certain I will."

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