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Farmland tax hike possible

Secret talks under way to boost revenue

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

Illinois farmers may see their property taxes rise next year as a result of negotiations taking place behind closed doors at the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Details are murky, but state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, called the matter one of the most important issues facing downstate Illinois during the upcoming legislative session. 

In 1977, the Illinois Legislature passed a measure that bases farmland property taxes on the land’s productivity rather than on market value.

In the same decade, farmers, particularly in the collar counties, saw their taxes skyrocket, not because farming was more profitable, but because neighboring land was being purchased for development. Often, the escalating taxes forced farmers to sell their land even though they wanted to continue to farm.

To mitigate the problem, the Legislature changed the law to base farmland taxes on the land’s productive value in agriculture rather than just its market value.   

In 1986, local governments successfully lobbied the Legislature to limit annual assessment fluctuations to no more than 10 percent. School districts and other local governments wanted this so they could budget more effectively.

Agriculture economists who analyzed farmland assessments found that the caps created a distortion in tax rates, said Kevin Semlow, an Illinois Farm Bureau lobbyist.

State revenue officials and representatives of the Farm Bureau have been negotiating ways to correct this distortion, he said.  

A likely outcome is higher taxes for almost all farmers in the state, Semlow said.

Semlow added that the reason his group is working with the state is because the Farm Bureau wants to continue to have farmland taxed based on its productivity. For this to continue to be a viable policy, the tax distortions need to be eliminated, he said.   

No legislation has been drafted yet, and just how much taxes would go up for individual farmers depends on the type of soil they cultivate, Mautino said. 

Sue Hoffer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, declined to share details. She would say only that it would likely be unveiled next month.

The great snow globe budget fix

When it comes to solving the state budget crisis, Gov. Pat Quinn is certainly thinking globally.

Fifty snow globes, to be precise. 

The Department of Central Management Services is auctioning off the vacation souvenirs. The money will go toward balancing the state budget. 

How did they arrive at this “global” solution?

The federal Transportation Safety Administration confiscated the globes at Illinois airports and then donated them to the state, said Alka Nayyar, a spokeswoman for the Department of Central Management Services.

The opening bid for a lot of 50? A mere 99 cents.

In other words, when the auction began, the state would have needed to sell about 10 trillion snow globes to pay off Illinois’ pension shortfall.

Note to readers – Scott Reeder’s column is underwritten by the Illinois Policy Institute.

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