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.