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Letter: Farmers hit too hard on taxes

By State Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and State Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls

Co-chairmen, Minnesota Legislature’s GOP Rural Caucus

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As legislative Democrats now pat themselves on the back for supposedly providing tax relief to farmers, the facts show that most of them will actually pay significantly higher property taxes due to the DFL’s actions.

Thanks to the unprecedented tax increases that Democrats implemented on farmers last year, most of those who make their living on the land won’t even notice this alleged relief. It’s a lot like someone stealing $100 out of your wallet and replacing it with $10 in hopes that you’ll forget the original theft.

The Democrats are hoping farmers have short memories.

In the spring of 2013, Democrats and Governor Dayton agreed to impose new sales taxes on farm repairs. At Farmfest last summer, the governor promised to remove this tax during an upcoming special session. The special session ended with no relief.

In early 2014, Democrats promised, with House File 1777, to rescind the farm repair sales tax and provide refunds to those who had paid it. On April 1 the tax was rescinded, yet Democrats refused to issue refunds of the estimated $10.5 million that was collected from farmers up to that date.

Now Democrats are hailing the passage of a proposal that provides $16.9 million to farmers through the Agriculture Homestead Credit, which is hypocritical.

Remember, farmers had already paid more than $10 mil-lion to state government through the equipment repair sales tax. Add in the fact that agriculture land property taxes have gone up by more than $116 million in the last two years and farmers can legitimately say they’ve been fleeced by their Democratic-led state government.

Non-partisan Minnesota House research staffers have come up with some alarming agriculture property tax statistics.

For instance, the average farmer in Le Sueur County who owned 250 acres paid $3,948 in property taxes in 2012. That same farmer will now pay $5,827 in 2014, which is a 47.6 percent increase in just two years.

The average farmer in Martin County who owned 450 acres in 2012 paid $6,623 in property taxes. In 2014, he’ll pay $8,494.

In Stevens County, a farmer who paid $7,002 in property taxes for his 570 acres two years ago will now pay $8,580.

These are real property tax increases implemented by Democratic leadership, and most farmers are feeling the hit in their pocketbooks.

It’s also worth noting that taxes on non-homesteaded farm land won’t see any relief from this proposal. Taxes on those lands are usually passed on to farmers through the rent they pay.

The reality is that Democrats are trying to throw a financial bone to farmers in order to keep them from complaining. They’ve even decided to mail farmers “Jesse Checks” — modeled after the one-time refunds championed by former Governor Ventura – within a few weeks of the November election.

But farmers aren’t even going to notice this pittance because their property taxes have already skyrocketed thanks to the Democrats’ legislative actions from last year.