Friday, January 12, 2007

Equestrian Welfare?

State Rep Robin Vos is among the handful of people who read this blog, or so he tells me. I share that info only because I wish to comment on his legislative priorities as listed in todays Journal Times.

Among those are lower taxes, eliminating income tax on pensions, health care improvements "without turning to government-run, taxpayer funded universal health care", ethics reform, and my absolute favorite, school vouchers for Racine. The devil is in the details, of course, but I can say that I approve wholeheartedly of this agenda.

But I am not writing simply to praise Robin Vos. That is not my style. I must question another of his priorities: "Vos said he wants to see property tax benefits for farmers extended to people raising horses - helping preserve rural land in Caledonia by taxing the land for agricultural use instead of its development potential."

Now I am all for tax deductions, but this one gives me pause. I am envisioning very wealthy people enjoying their horses in large open areas. Why should they get a tax break? They should be taxed according to the value of their land like everyone else. Otherwise, you and I are subsidizing the recreation of the wealthy. This does not seem fair to me at all. Now of course I would support accross the board property tax relief.

Am I wrong Robin? If so, please explain this to me and my readers. Thanks.


Kathy said...

I want a horse!!!:) Does this same rule apply to ponies?

Denis Navratil said...

Maybe if everyone kept a pony in their yard, we could all get a tax break.

Robin Vos said...

Good Morning Dennis....

In the 1990's Wisconsin adopted changes to the way property is assessed called "Land Use Assessment".

The idea behind it was to assess land for what it is currently being used for, not for the potential value of the land if it was converted to something else.

Farmers who raise corn, hogs, steer, etc are given a much lower tax rate on the land that they actually use for those purposes than on their house.

I support this idea as a way to help to insure that not every single acre of land in high-growth areas such as those close to I-94 in Caledonia, Mt. Pleasant, Raymond, Yorkville are developed. If a family wants to maintain a farm, I don't think the government, through escalating property taxes, should force them to sell.

Now you know that I support property tax controls on every single layer of government. But with the Democrats in control of the State Senate and Jim Doyle in the Governor's Mansion...this is a modest make the tax system more fair for those farmers who were left out the last time.

It doesn't make sense to me that Wisconsin thinks if you raise hogs or cattle you should get the tax break, but if you are a certified Horse Farm (not a hobby farm) that you shouldn't get the same tax relief.

Make sense?

Denis Navratil said...

Thanks for your response Robin. I appreciate your willingness to address my concerns. And yes, it makes sense.

However, that does not mean that I agree.

One issue that comes to mind is the problem of differentiating between hobby horse farms and certified horse farms.

But my larger concern is that you are proposing government subsidies, in the form of tax breaks, to businesses that would otherwise fold or move to areas where the land is cheaper. The more efficient use of this land, it seems, would be residential development.

As you may know, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to markets, and I don't like government tampering with the free market. Farm subsidies are costing us alot of money, and contributing to poverty and starvation elsewhere. For every break we give to farmers, and that includes lower taxes, trade barriers, etc... it drives up the cost of food for everyone else. Foriegn producers are often put at an insurmountable disadvantage. Thus, consumers are denied the opportunity to purchase cheaper food produced in developing countries. It costs us money at the dinner table and most of us don't even realize it as this is all we know. But the greater problem is that poor countries are effectively denied access to our markets, and this contributes to joblessness, poverty, instability etc... which is also bad for us and them as well.

I didn't mean to lecture you Robin, as I am sure you know this as well as I do. And I realize that you must represent the interests of your constituents and not Zambian farmers. Even so, I believe that your constituents would be better served by your consistent support of free markets, whether they realize it or not.

Thanks again for explaining your position. Not many of your colleages would do so. And good luck on those vouchers. You will need it.