A Republican lawmaker from southeastern Minnesota said he plans to introduce a bill next month to relieve pressure on farmers who he says are being overwhelmed by tax increases.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, the incoming chairman of the House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division, said his proposal would exclude farmland from being taxed for capital bond referendums. Instead, taxes would be limited to a farmer's homestead, which includes the house, outbuildings and 1 acre of land, the Post-Bulletin reported.
Drazkowski said it's getting difficult for some farmers to operate.
"If you run 1,000 acres or 800 acres of land, you are paying property tax on every one of those acres for those construction levies," Drazkowski said. "This is to provide some relief for them so they can continue to operate."
Farmers' property taxes are soaring at a time when corn prices have dropped. Both the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Farmers Union support Drazkowski's proposal.
Rod Sommerfield, who farms 500 acres near Mazeppa, is among farmers who have called Drazkowski looking for relief. Sommerfield got a surprise when he recently opened his property tax statement and saw the taxes he pays on his farm are projected to jump by 17 percent next year.
"I can't repeat what I thought. It's not printable, let's put it that way," Sommerfield said. He said he supports Drazkowski's efforts to rein in tax hikes on farmers.
But it's an issue that can quickly get complicated, warned Kirk Schneidawind, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association. He said his organization does not have a position on Drazkowski's proposed bill but is concerned about how the tax burden would affect other property taxpayers.
"Whenever you start changing tax policy, there are many unintended consequences. This would certainly spread the tax burden on those households in the district," he said.
Outgoing House Education Finance Chairman Paul Marquardt, DFL-Dilworth, said he agrees something needs to be done to help address the high tax bills farmers are faced with, but lawmakers need to be careful.
"It depends on how you are doing it. If you just take the tax off of the ag land, then you are just shifting it on to non-ag land and in some of these districts when you have 90 percent or more ag land, that's a huge, huge shift," Marquardt said.