Governor Mike Pence highlighted the inaugural Governor's Agricultural Forum recently and talked about property taxes on farmland, saying it was time for change. It's easy for farm families and those engaged in agriculture to rally around that issue.
Now comes the hard part – turning talk into action. What Governor Pence didn't talk about while addressing a big crowd at the Governor's Ag Forum were details to make it happen. It will take a plan, legislative bills, legislative action and the governor's signature to transform good intentions into something besides business as usual.
Talking about reducing property taxes on farmland is one thing. The Legislature's own Commission on Business Taxation last year began a list of 19 recommendations with three related to property taxes on farmland. Yet as far as we know the primary bill regarding farm property taxes so far is one to delay soil index adjustments, which would raise property taxes for most. It would be the fourth delay in four years.
Katrina Hall, director of legislative efforts for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. testified before the Commission last fall. She said it was time to settle the soil index debate and move on to the real issue – revamping the formula that determines assessed evaluation for farmland.
Where is the freeze on property taxes for farmland the Commission recommended? Where is the recommendation that would end the soil index fiasco once and for all? Where is legislation that would take a serious look at overhauling how property taxes are calculated?
Property taxes on farmland have risen 33% since 2007. Without intervention they will continue increasing by double-digit percentages for the foreseeable future.
At this point some real, substantive proposal put on the table to debate would be better than what we've heard so far, just lots of talk. Let's hope that the administration and legislative leaders intend to do more than talk about property tax relief for farmers before this session ends.