Novstrup Agrees with Heidelberger: Ag Productivity Tax Unfair

…and Whose Fault Is That Unfairness?

Rep. Al Novstrup and I agree that South Dakota’s current method of assessing agricultural land for property tax is a mess. Yet Rep. Novstrup’s response to a question about ag land assessment at Saturday’s candidate forum shows a typical Republican inability to recognize his responsibility for that mess.

Asked Saturday where we stand on the productivity assessment model, I offered my long-standing position that taxing farmers based on what their land could have produced rather than what it actually produced is not just unfair but “a mathematical absurdity.”

In Shannon Marvel’s words, Rep. Novstrup “took a similar stance”:

“I’ve been deeply involved in this issue. I was on the first agricultural task force. It’s broken, it doesn’t treat citizens fairly,” Novstrup said. “That’s the No. 1 criteria for a tax, it has to treat citizens fairly. I don’t think there are three people in South Dakota that understand the formula. I spent hours with the person that was deeply involved writing it. I asked her the question of where did that number come from. Show me where it came from, and her answer was ‘I made it up.’ And it was the most critical number on the spreadsheet. Based on that number shifting, millions and millions of dollars shift from one taxpayer to another” [Shannon Marvel, “Candidates Discuss Refugees, Drug Addiction and the Ag Production Tax Formula,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.09.25].

Wait a minute: Rep. Novstrup was “deeply involved”, was on a task force dedicated to ag land assessment, and acknowledges that the system is “broken” and unfair? Rep. Novstrup’s own words indicate that Rep. Novstrup is an integral part of that broken and unfair system. A simple step toward fixing that broken and unfair system is to remove and replace that part with a better Senator.

Maybe we should cut poor Rep. Novstrup some slack. He’s just suffering from the same swift amnesia that afflicts his entire South Dakota Republican Party when asked about problems in government. Rep. Kristi Noem has failed to acknowledge problems of her own making. Republicans shout that Washington is broken, but they don’t acknowledge that their majority party is in charge in Congress and could fix problems if it really wanted to.

But Republicans don’t get around to fixing the problems that are staring them in the face. Republicans (including Rep. Novstrup’s son Senator David) blocked a 2015 effort just to study a fairer method of ag land assessment, just as Republicans resisted study and improvement back in 2010, when problems in implementation of the ag productivity tax arose.

To Al’s credit, he and Rep. David Lust tried in 2009 to repeal the ag productivity tax before it launched. Alas, Novstrup and Lust couldn’t muster the leadership to rally fellow Republicans, including then State Rep. Kristi Noem, to support a more fair tax system. So here we sit seven years later with a broken system and Al and his Republican majority doing nothing to fix it. If we want to fix ag property tax, we need to fix the Legislature… and that means electing new legislators.


4 Responses to Novstrup Agrees with Heidelberger: Ag Productivity Tax Unfair

  1. Roger Elgersma

    This agricultural profitability value was started when Dave Knudson ran the Senate. Land prices were going sky high with the rise in the price of corn so Dave thought he could get more taxes in with the rise in the price of land and cut the increase in value at the same time. Then I heard him at the first debate for Governor the next year held by the Corn Growers at the downtown Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls and he presented himself as the one who gave farmers a tax break. He knew it is very hard for a person from Sioux Falls to win state wide elections so he found a way to gain influence with the rural areas of the state. Then he had an add on TV showing him walking down a country road with a tool box saying that he knew how to fix the tax shortage for those who wanted to pay teachers more. He had broken the system and touted himself as knowing how to fix it. But once you pass a law to give a tax break to the majority, how do you fix it again?
    Land taxes are to tax the wealthy to pay for schools. He gave the wealth of all that farm land a break and then it really can not be fixed unless South Dakota becomes an urban state, not any time soon.

  2. I think Senator Jim Lintz from Hermosa was involved quite a bit because the small ranches with nice views in the Black Hills were selling sky high and driving up the valuations and assessments. this is just a tax shift to the farmer that raises crops on their land, and gives the west river ranches a break, along with the east river cattle man. Corn and soybean farmers pay more, commercial and lake property have gone up astronomically. Nobody that I have talked to can explain it in a way that makes sense, and a lot of Legislators voted for it because they were told it was an improvement from the old way, and it was working well in other states. All BS

  3. Jim Lintz made a mean pizza. He taught his boy how to make them in quantity. It took Larry Rhoden to really crack that nut and then he left the legislatures to come in 2nd in the US Senate Race. He’ll be back in the legislatures soon and bringing his common sense and fair solutions with him, I expect.

  4. Bobby Kolbe

    You can’t be the solution
    When YOU are the problem