Legislators and key farm leaders gathered at the Indiana Statehouse today to witness Governor Pence sign his first bill as governor. Senate Bill 319 received his signature, as he sat behind a desk with the sign 'Helping Hoosier Farmers' attached to the front.
This bill will save Hoosier landowners an estimated $57 million in property taxes for the second year in a row. It also compels the Department of Local Government Finance to review the soil productivity index with the Purdue College of Agriculture, and to report back to the General Assembly any recommendations by Nov. 1, 2013.
One year ago DLGF proposed a change in soil productivity index calculations, which would have raised property tax bills for most farm landowners. Indiana Farm Bureau lobbyists were instrumental in convincing the legislature to delay it for a year. Without action it would have taken effect on assessments going forward from March 1, 2013.
In fact, the legislature acted quickly and expedited the bill that said DLGF would not be able to include the new indexes for farm assessments beginning March 1. DLGF had made it clear that since the bill likely wouldn't be signed until at least late April, it fully intended to instruct assessors to begin using the new indexes in assessing bare farmland for next year.
Those who worked hardest on farmers' behalf included Indiana Sens. Jean Leising, Greg Walker and John Waterman, who authored the bill. Those sponsoring it in the House included Reps. Don Lehe of Brookston and Bob Cherry, Greenfield.
The final vote in both houses of the legislature was unanimous, a rare occurrence. The only persons not voting for the bill were a few senators and representatives that were absent at the time of the vote.
Now that the new bill is law, DLGF is prevented from imposing this extra increase for another year, and must now gather information to bring back to the legislature for further consideration.