Just what I wanted in my Christmas stocking—the first bills of the 2016 Legislative Session! HB, SB, whee whee whee!
Now listed on the website that I will visit more than KELO-TV and Netflix over the next three months are eight House bills and five Senate bills. There are pretty distractions, like House Bill 1003 quintupling the fine county commissioners can slap on contemptuous meeting-goers (to $25!), and lump of coal in the form of HB 1008, Rep. Fred Deutsch’s potty break (that’s a post unto itself).
But the big timber so far appear to be the taxation bills. The interim committee on agricultural land taxes has filed three bills. HB 1007 would immediately appropriate $175,000 to have SDSU economists “conduct research concerning the value and methods used to determine agricultural land production capacity” “update the data used in the soil tables.” There can’t be any harm in studying the issue and updating our data, right, legislators?
Senate Bill 3 amends the three criteria for designating land as agricultural for tax purposes. Instead of producing a third of the owning family’s gross income, land would qualify as agricultural by producing gross income in three of the last five years equal to or greater than a tenth of the land’s ag valuation (not counting buildings!) and producing at least $2,500 in gross income each year. SB 3 also allows non-contiguous “management units” of at least eighty acres of unplatted land to be assessed as agricultural, as long as no parcel smaller than twenty acres is more than twenty air miles from the nearest other parcel.
Senate Bill 4 is the grassland protection bill that made the news earlier this month. SB 4 would assess at a lower non-cropland rate any unplowed native prairie or any restored grassland that has not been cropped for at least thirty years. Any landowner who lies about her grassland status will be taxed on that land at the full cropland rate plus a two-mill (two dollars per thousand dollars of assessed value) penalty.
Likely to be more controversial is House Bill 1006, in which the interim committee on county government asks not to raise your taxes but to give counties permission to raise your taxes. Specifically, HB 1006 offers 13 lucky sections to authorize counties to impose sales and use taxes. The counties couldn’t add more than a penny to your local sales tax (remember, the state gets four cents, and municipalities can impose up to two cents, plus an extra penny for bed and booze). The county government committee also offers Senate Bill 2, which would give counties one third of the revenues from the alcoholic beverage fund. Those funds would be distributed to counties based on population, not on consumption. To get the cities on board, SB 2 also increases the municipalities’ share from one quarter to one third. The argument for HB 1006 and SB 2 will be that counties don’t get enough revenue from wheel and property taxes to pay for roads and jails. But counties have been black sheep in Legislative esteem, so their chances of getting more authority and cash from Pierre may be less than 50–50.
Enjoy those substantial taxation bills with your eggbake and cookies!