Friday, December 19th, 2014

Walk-O-Meter

Review all tax policy to lighten burden on farmers

Will "conduct a comprehensive review of all tax policy that impacts farmers, eliminate tax barriers to production, and rein in government spending so that farmers can invest in their operations instead of sending more money to the state treasury."


Subjects: Agriculture, Taxes

Updates

Analysis assesses taxation of farmers

As a candidate in 2010, Scott Walker promised that as governor, he would conduct a "comprehensive review of all tax policy that impacts farmers" aimed at lightening the tax burden on them.

Walker signed a major tax-reduction bill inserted into his first budget by Republican lawmakers that directly addresses costs at agribusinesses. And his efforts to virtually freeze property tax collections statewide also have held down tax bills for farmers.

But when we last reviewed this promise, in July 2013, we rated it Stalled, as there had not been the review Walker spoke of.

Walker's press secretary, Tom Evenson, has since provided us an analysis, done Sept. 18, 2013, by the state Department of Revenue. It provides a detailed overview of how property, excise, sales and income taxes affect farmers.

The paper concludes by saying:

"The Wisconsin Legislature has exempted nearly all tax liability related to individual income, sales/use tax, and excise tax for farm-related income and farming activities.

"While the Legislature may find the need to adjust the definition of farming to account for the expansion and modernization of the profession, and likewise identify additional items deserving of a farm-related tax exemption, a significant pool of taxable property related to farming" is not evident.

"Similarly, while the individual income tax rate reductions in 2013 Wisconsin Act 20 and the phase-in of the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit will have powerful impacts to more than offset the expiring farm-related income tax credits, a small amount of individual income tax liability will continue to exist related to farm income. Use-value and agricultural forest assessment reduce the property tax liability of farmers considerably. However, neither is an exemption, which means that farmers will continue to pay property taxes.

"The Legislature has the constitutional ability to affect the standards used to assess agricultural property."

We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Tom Evenson, Nov. 7, 2013

Wisconsin Department of Revenue, "Taxation of farmers in Wisconsin -- overview analysis"

Despite two budgets in the books, nothing to harvest on this one

As a candidate in 2010, Scott Walker promised that as governor, he would conduct a "comprehensive review of all tax policy that impacts farmers.”


Walker signed a major tax-reduction bill inserted into his first budget by Republican lawmakers that directly addresses costs at agribusinesses. And his efforts to virtually freeze property tax collections statewide also have held down tax bills for farmers.


Walker spokesman Tom Evenson argued that a number of tax credits were overhauled to make way for the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit.


But that's not the same as a comprehensive review of all tax policy in this area and Walker is more than halfway into his term.


Given that state budgets are the primary vehicle for creating tax changes, and that the two budgets during Walker's term have already been adopted, we move the rating on this promise from In the Works to Stalled.

Sources:

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Tom Evenson, July 11, 2013


Email interview, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance president Todd Berry, July 11, 2013

Some progress on reductions, but no top-to-bottom review

In the 2010 campaign, Gov. Scott Walker tailored some of his tax-and-spending promises to farmers.


He promised on his campaign website that, "My administration will conduct a comprehensive review of all tax policy that impacts farmers, eliminate tax barriers to production, and rein in government spending so that farmers can invest in their operations instead of sending more money to the state treasury.”


As governor, he signed a major tax-reduction bill inserted into his first budget by GOP lawmakers that directly addresses costs at agribusinesses.


The legislation reduces the state tax on the production earnings of manufacturers and agricultural businesses to almost nothing by 2016, the Journal Sentinel reported. Its cost was estimated at $359 million in five years, then $128 million annually after phase in.


Walker"s efforts to virtually freeze property tax collections statewide also have held down tax bills for farmers.

   

On the spending side, Walker made significant cuts in education aid and other programs to help fund, in effect, such tax cuts.


His actions are in line with the bulk of the multifaceted promise he made on fiscal policies affecting farmers.


We have not seen a top-to-bottom review of tax policy affecting farmers.

So for now, we'll call this In the Works.

Sources:

Email interview with Jocelyn Webster, spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker, March 22, 2013