Farmers Would Be Hit Hard By Riley Tax Plan
Looks of shock, frustration and anger were on the faces of more than 100 farmers from throughout the state as they crammed into a meeting room in Mobile July 31 for an informational meeting on Gov. Bob Riley’s proposed $1.2 billion tax package. The farmers knew they would be hit hard by the property tax provisions of the plan, but for some, it was the first time they realized the impact the plan’s other tax increases would have on their operations.A new sales tax on service work, higher taxes on leased farm equipment, higher taxes on vehicle tags, higher fees on mortgages for operating expenses and higher taxes on farm lubricants–it all adds up to big money for already financially strapped farmers. As Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore and Federation Governmental Affairs Director Freddie Patterson addressed the crowd, one could almost hear the farmers’ mental calculators at work.Patterson said one of the most frustrating things about the plan is its sheer size–almost 1,000 pages of legislation that is being “summarized” in less than 100 words on a Sept. 9 ballot that doesn’t even mention “raising taxes.” To help the farmers understand the massive tax plan, Patterson prepared a list of the most frequently asked questions he’s received: Does the 2,000-acre current use cap apply to local as well as state taxes? Yes.Can I take the 200-acre farmstead exemption and the $150,000 exemption for improvements to property? No. Taxpayers can take ONLY ONE of the following: 200-acre farmstead exemption, $150,000 improvements exemption or $50,000 homestead exemption.Does the Riley plan figure in yearly reappraisals? When do yearly reappraisals begin? No. Yearly reappraisals begin in 2004 for the 10 most populous counties; the remaining counties will be phased in over the next six years.Who is responsible for deciding how the new revenue is spent? The Legislature is the only branch of government with the constitutional authority to appropriate money.What accountability measures have been taken? None that are not already required by regulation or statute.If my total agriculture and timberland is more than 2,000 acres and is next to a new housing development, will it be assessed at the same price as the lots in the development? Yes, because it will be assessed at 100 percent of the fair market value.How will the overall package affect me? If your income is over $40,000; if your home is valued at $52,000 or more; if you have any repair or installation charges, you will pay additional taxes.