Today E2SHB 1437 passed out of the House of Representatives with a vote of 92-1. The floor debate was thoughtful and compelling. Take a look at TVW to hear Representatives Reykdal, Nealey, and Wilcox explain why this makes good sense. (13 minutes 40 seconds into the video)
The Senate now has to decide whether to consider this proposal.
We think they should, for the reasons set out below.
Quick Recap of The Proposal
This proposal is about the current use program.
Under this property tax program participating farms are valued based on how they are used (current use), not fair market value. This takes the high taxes off of the farmer and reduces the pressures to develop the land. It lowers the cost of doing business and keeps the farmer competitive.
The current use program is just about land – not buildings – not houses – not barns. Large farms get all of the land on the farm valued at current use, including land under the farm residence. Small farms do not get the land under the farm residence taxed at current use.
This proposal treats large and small the same – with conditions. Under existing law farms under 20 acres must meet income thresholds. E2SHB 1437 keeps those requirements, and adds a new requirement for farms 10 acres and under. In order for those farms to have the land under their residence taxed at current use they must prove a gross income of at least $10,000 a year. Farms over 10 acres do not have to show any special income in order to qualify for the residence tax treatment. All sizes of farms must establish that the farm residence is an integral part of their farm operation.
The proposal is a pilot project for Thurston County. The legislature has directed JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee) to do an evaluation of the Thurston County experience. This will provide useful information with which to craft a state-wide program for all small farms.
The proposal has a very modest fiscal impact. Thurston County will lose under $7,000 (seven thousand) dollars in revenue and individual taxpayers will pay less than a dollar extra each year. This is a small investment for such a big impact – preserving small farms.
Why Support this Pilot Program
- Local community: Small farms have an important role in the local community and increase access to food.
- Farmers Markets: Small farms are the backbone of farmers markets.
- Public interest: Tax preferences are of great public interest. It makes sense to start with one county and see whether this program will improve the viability of small farms.
- Readiness: Thurston County is ready for this program. Its local government officials have testified in support of this proposal.
- Public value: Preserving farmland is a commonly held objective.
- Food banks: Small farms make significant contributions to food banks.
- Good food: Small farms grow good food.
Pitch in. Go to Things to do, and do them.