Americans for Prosperity Maine held a news conference in Augusta on Friday to show their support for Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to increase the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million.

Dan Beck, one of the owners of Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, said he was shocked to learn a few years ago that the family diner was valued at more than $1 million. He said he and his family are by no means wealthy, but the value of the Moody’s name and the potential for a franchise drove it up beyond their expectations.

“Increasing the death tax exemption would be a huge boost to many small Maine businesses,” he said.

In his budget address, LePage touted the change as a way to “make it easier to pass a family business to the next generation and to reduce the incentive for moving wealth out of Maine.”

Figures from Maine Revenue Services show that about 600 estates are taxed each year under current law. The change would drop that number to about 175 taxable estates. If it is included in the two-year budget as proposed, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

– MaineToday Media State House Bureau