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SG-W:/ Ag lands tax legislation update

         Fri, 02 Jun 2000 15:22:34 -0400
         Senate Democratic Caucus <sendemstaff@senate.state.mi.us>

Democrats Push for Effective Open-Space Preservation

 A constitutional amendment to cut property taxes for farmers failed in
the Senate this week, because as it is currently written it will not do
nearly enough to stop sprawling development.
 "In concept, this is good public policy.  In execution, it's still
said Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township.
 Under current law, all land in the state is assessed for property taxes

according to its "highest and best use," meaning its most valuable
potential use.  A farmer with land that would be worth far more if it
were turned into a subdivision is paying property taxes on the
development value of the land, not on its actual value as a working
farm.  Farmers struggling to make a living could be forced to sell their

land because of the high property taxes.
 Taxing the land according to its actual use makes a lot more sense,
but only if it's done properly.  If the landowner does in fact go ahead
and sell the property to developers, making a lot of money and
converting the open space to development, then taxing it as farmland
accomplished nothing. Speculative developers would simply buy up
farmland, rent it out to farmers in order to pay lower taxes, then
convert it when the time is right into subdivisions and strip malls.
Instead of stopping development, this plan would accelerate it by
providing a tax break.
 A broad coalition of environmentalists and outdoors groups opposes
this legislation. They want to ensure that this legislation provides
protection for farmland and open space.

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