Indiana farmers achieved their top 2 legislative goals in this year’s session of the General Assembly: lower taxes and better roads. The top legislative priority for Indiana soybean growers was funding to repair rural roads and bridges. Patrick Pfingsten, with the Indiana Soybean Alliance, says the bill that was passed provides immediate funding to address rural road and bridge repair, “Senate Bill 67 includes $430 million in additional, one-time payments to local governments of which ¾ must be used on direct road and bridge repair. This will mean immediate funding to address rural roads and bridges.” In addition, more money from the gasoline tax will be directed to road and bridge repair. “Rural roads and bridges here in Southern Indiana and around the state are crumbling, and we thank members of the General Assembly for their action to help make these much needed repairs,” said Mike Nichols, a farmer from Spencer County and president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association.
The governor and Senate Republican’s opposed an increase in the gasoline tax that would have provided long term funding for Indiana’s infrastructure, Pfingsten says that will have to wait until next year, “This bill does not address long term funding, while that is disappointing, it is a discussion we will have to have with lawmakers next year in the budget session.” “We look forward to a discussion with leaders in 2017 to address long term funding sources for our local roads and bridges,” added Nichols.
The second big victory in the General Assembly came in the form of property tax relief. “With markets struggling, the farmland property tax formula penalized farmers for previous success without taking current market conditions into account,” said Jeanette Merritt, chair of the Indiana Soybean Alliance Membership & Policy Committee. “We thank lawmakers for their bold efforts in reducing this excessive burden on farmers and begin stabilizing these out of control bills.” The new formula provides stability to the base value by adding capitalization rates that range between 6% and 8%, depending on certain factors. “We are thrilled with the real solutions passed this session, and we send our most sincere thanks to each legislator who authored and supported the items on our legislative agenda,” said Katrina Hall, INFB’s director of state government relations.
The measure also set the soil productivity factor back to where it was 4 years ago. Pfingsten said this does not represent a special deal for agriculture, “Because of the flawed formula property taxes have increased by more than 60% over the past 5 years. This bill adjusts that formula to provide some short term relief and some long term stability.”
Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron echoed Hall’s sentiments and stated, “None of these legislative victories could have been achieved without the grassroots engagement of our members. They took time from their farms and families and found their voice in government by coming to the Statehouse.”