Insiders in the field representing Indiana Farm Bureau and knowledgeable about what's going on and not going on at the Statehouse in Indianapolis concerning property taxes are not smiling much these days. Word on the street is that whatever emerges will not be farmer friendly, to say the least. Apparently, the legislators are leaning toward catering toward homeowners, who vastly outnumber farmers as a voting block.
"The legislators don't really seem to be listening right now to someone trying to tell them about the possible impact that the Governor's proposed plan could have upon agriculture," the insider says. It's time for farmers who care about the issue to call their representatives and senators before it's too late, this insider noted.
One possible outcome that has not been publicized widely is that if the governor's bill requires a constitutional change as it does in the present farm to include the cap system of how high property taxes can rise in any one year, then that can't be completely settled in one session of the legislature. Legislators would have to vote on a conditional amendment change again, and it would have to go to a referendum by all voters. That will stretch out into one to two years. Meanwhile, it's possible that the current property tax malaise could continue, this source noted. It also gives legislators a chance to vote on the amendment to the state constitution after they've been re-elected this fall, and when they're not facing an election year.
The other biggest cause for concern is that more folks are rattling the saber and beating the drum, trying to convince farmers that they're getting a good deal, not a bum rap, from this new property tax relief package offered by Governor Daniels. The logic is that land is priced at, for '08, around $1,200, and that's a bargain compared to $3,500 to $4,000 or more farm land really sells for today.
That's a wolf in sheep's clothing, farm bureau insiders say. Land is taxed at use value, and it's damaging enough that value is increasing, and likely to increase more over the next few years do to the formula used to figure what land assessed prices should be. Wit the public not understanding tradition or the earning power of land compared to its current value, talking in terms of ag is getting a bargain, not a raw deal, is dangerous, but hard to combat.
The bottom line is that several within the state's largest farm group believe the governor's property tax plan would not be a plus for agriculture. It would perhaps relieve pressure on homeowners, but would not help farmers, other than the same treatment they would get on their primary residence, as other homeowners would get.