JEFFERSON CITY - A State Tax Commission recommendation to raise taxes on some Missouri farmland is close to defeat in the Missouri legislature.
Following controversial debate in both the Senate and House Rules committees, two resolutions were passed out of committee that rejected the assessment. Both chambers of the General Assembly approved the measures in separate landslide votes.
The Senate sent their version of a resolution to the House to reject the commission's tax hike Thursday, while the House's nearly identical version was read on the Senate floor the same day.
Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said that this issue is gaining much attention from legislators. He said the differences between the two resolutions do not matter because the final goal is to stop the Commission's rule from going into effect and that should be accomplished, pending a few technicalities.
"It's on the fast track because it needs to be," Munzlinger said. "Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Missouri and this issue will raise the cost of food and its production, affecting all Missourians."
Critics of the commission's assessment are quick to point out the lack of attention to detail when considering their order. Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, said that the order neglected valuable yield data and instead evaluated land prices and net farm income levels. He and Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, were sponsors of the Senate's resolution.
"Farm land is not more productive," Stouffer said. "There have been two good years for agriculture in the last six and they are throwing off the estimates being used."
As previously reported, the State Tax Commission's biannual assessment of farmland led to a recommendation for higher taxes on Missouri farmland Grades 1 to 4 and to lower taxes on Grades 5 to 8. Each Missouri farm is assigned a grade value of one to eight based on the amount of productivity a farmer can draw out of the land. Grade 1 farms have the most desirable land, and Grade 8 farms have the least. These "use values" are then multiplied by both a 12 percent statewide rate and then by a county levy.
Both resolutions are expected to be sent to committees next week. If they move out of their respective committees, the resolutions will be put to a vote and a decision will be finalized. The deadline for any decision to be made is the end of February.