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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: PA inheritance tax; Winter books

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Feb 20, 2013 12:36 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Thursday, February 21:

man reassures widown on finances 300 x 170.jpg

Pennsylvania's inheritance tax is arguably the state's most unpopular tax.  It is derisively called "the death tax." 

Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) has proposed legislation to eliminate the inheritance tax on family-owned businesses in Pennsylvania, saying some families have had to sell or even liquidate their businesses in order to pay the tax.  It ranges from 4.5% to 15% of a business' total value, depending on whether the heir is the son or daughter of the business owner or a distant relative.

Bloom also calls the inheritance tax a burden to the next generation of job creators.

man reads book 300 x 170.jpgThe Pennsylvania Department of Revenue estimates doing away with the tax would mean a loss of $9.9 million in tax revenue.

Rep. Bloom will appear on Thursday's Radio Smart Talk to explain his bill.

Also, we may be a month away from spring but this is the time of year when many people get bored and are looking for something to do.  Reading a good book is entertaining at any time of year, but maybe more so now during the cold winter days and nights. 

Radio Smart Talk will get book recommendations on Thursday's program from Catherine Lawrence, co-owner of the Mid Town Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg and a writer herself, Todd Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron's Books in Lititz, and Jon Walker, who blogs book reviews at

What books are you reading?


Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) on Radio Smart Talk


Catherine Lawrence, Todd Dickinson, and Jon Walker

Jon Walker list:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo ... The Old Ways, by Robert Macfarlane ... Canada, by Richard Ford.

The only one I didn't give 5 stars out of 5 was Behind the Beautiful Forevers even though this book won the National Book Award and generally gets rave reviews all around from professional critics down to Amazon amateurs. Read my review and you'll see why I went against the grain. 

I have also attached my post about the history of the Horseshoe Trail that stretches from near Harrisburg to Valley Forge.  I thought you might be personally intrigued because it's of local interest and may be a good topic for another Smart Talk program.  You could have an officer of the Horseshoe Trail Association, or the president of one of the many hiking and walking clubs in the area on the show.  Just a thought.

Finally, I've attached a fourth book review -- The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey.  I have included this book because it fits perfectly with the theme of "the kind of book you really like to curl up with on a cold winter's day." 


Todd Dickinson’s list:

The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel

Stephen Hunter

It’s not even a clue. It’s a whisper, a trace, a ghost echo, drifting down through the decades via chance connections so fragile that they would disintegrate in the puff of a breath. But it’s enough to get legendary former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger interested in the events of November 22, 1963.

The Absolutist

John Boyne

It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it.

The Presidents Club

Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

The Presidents Club is a complicated place: its members are bound forever by the experience of the Oval Office and yet are eternal rivals for history’s favor.


Catherine Lawrence’s list:

Ayana Mathis - The Twelve Tribes of Hattie  (Knopf hardcover & Random House large-print paper, December 2012)

This bestselling debut novel is set in Philadelphia and follows a family's challenges and courageous choices over the course of the 20th century. The author actually studied under the New School's Jackson Taylor of BLUE ORCHARD fame (which many may have read, a compelling story in its own right, based on real events in Harrisburg & surrounding communities in early to mid 20th Century).

Jennifer Haigh - News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories (Harper hardcover, January 2013)

Short stories set in fictionalized coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. Just published, to great critical acclaim. It's being compared to James Joyce's Dubliners, or Sherwood Anderson's Wineburg, Ohio! It should make an interesting counterpart to John O'Hara's Pennsylvania stories, which I've enjoyed.

Diana Gabaldon - A Trail of Fire (UK imprint, October 2012)

This is historical fiction, a collection of 4 novellas, some new and some republished. They are an off-shoot of Gabaldon's popular time-traveling historical epic "Outlander" Series, shifting between the 18th- and 20th-centuries.


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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-21 09:34

    Email from Thomas, Manheim TWP:

    how long has this tax been around, and why?

    may i ask, why not abolish it all together for everyone. the tax has already been paid on this money.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-21 09:35

    Email from Eric, Camp Hill:
    It's not "punishing success" ... It's an issue of fairness in requiring those who would ride on the coattails of their parents to pay their fair share. Otherwise, let the marketvstep in, someone buY the business and hangers on still get proceeds less taxes .. otherwise we're encouraging inept ownerships, ans I can't tell you the # of companies that were driven into the ground by offspring.... If hardship really were an issue, legislate a loophole for inheritants who can prove the business is barely profitable, or make it (even) easier for them to borrow. Thanks for considering; please consider for posted comments, too.

  • img 2013-02-21 09:54

    I do not feel that we should eliminate the inheritance tax. Buisness owners who want to can and do buy insurance to cover this expense. We through our goverment provide an enviorment that allows Buisness to thrive. Without roads, police and a predictable system of laws and protection for workers conducting buisness would be very difficult. Helping to maintian a viable goverment is an reasonable expense, one that should be managed and controlled but not eliminated.

  • chuck beyl img 2013-02-21 10:04

    Could you please post the title of the book on walking that one of your guest talked about? Better yet, can you post the titles of all the books?

    Thank you.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-21 10:10

    Email from Manuel, Carlisle:

    Currently in last chapters of Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. It gives a great sense of the backroom deals and political wrangling that helped found our nation.

    It gives some great guidance about how the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-02-21 10:12

    Email from Jamie

    I really enjoy character driven novels. I recently discovered Richard Russo and have read Empire Falls, The Risk Pool and Bridge of Sighs. I plan to read the rest of his books in the next few months.

    To escape the cold of winter I also read Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan which is centered around a family and their vacation home.

    Any other character driven stories the guests can recommend?

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