Pa. farmers see low-yield tax relief in Wolf’s budget

     Gov. Wolf with Katie McLaughlin, state Future Farmers of America officer and resident of Juniata County.

    Gov. Wolf with Katie McLaughlin, state Future Farmers of America officer and resident of Juniata County.

    For weeks, GOP lawmakers have been braying at Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal to reduce property taxes, saying it doesn’t go far enough.

    Farmers are also cottoning to that idea.

    “We wouldn’t support the proposal in its current state,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman Mark O’Neill.

    The group met in Harrisburg Tuesday to urge lawmakers to support a plan that would extend tax relief to farmland, instead of just buildings on farmland.

    “We have a reduction,” said acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It can always be more, I understand — but it’s at least a step in the right direction to reduce the burden on farms.”

    Wolf defended his budget himself to the bureau, arguing that his efforts to make school districts bring their property tax rates down would affect farmland.

    “You get across-the-board millage reduction, and that is something that has a big impact on every farm,” said Wolf. “Land is one of the big inputs, and so what I’m doing for property tax relief should be a huge thing for farms.”

    Redding reminded lawmakers that going further to reduce property taxes would require reaping more revenue somewhere else.

    “Through the severance tax, through the sales tax, through personal income, corporate net income tax,” said Redding. “All of those things are on the table. But if there’s another way to do it, I’d just ask folks to say, ‘here’s a plan.'”

    “I hope to present you with that opportunity very soon,” said Sen. Dave Argall, R-Schuylkill. Argall has been a prime sponsor for proposals to get rid of property taxes.

    The bureau has another beef with the governor’s proposed tax package. They say the plan to cut the corporate net income tax doesn’t really help them, because most file their taxes as individuals.

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