Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

September 20, 2013

Hoosiers are actually trendsetters


The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — The stereotypical image of Indiana as a myriad of fields and farms might be fairly accurate, but most people don’t realize that Hoosiers are actually trendsetters in many ways.

The whole nation seems to be watching us for the next big announcement, probably because we have done some pretty amazing things over the last couple years. Our fiscal condition is one to be envied – especially compared to some of our neighboring states – and we seem to be on the forefront for our policy efforts.

In 2012, we passed a nine-year phase out of the state inheritance tax, generally referred to as a “double tax” or “death tax.” This year, we sped up that process and made it an immediate elimination, keeping millions of dollars in Hoosiers’ pockets and helping to ensure that they are able to more easily afford to keep their family owned-and-operated businesses and farms.

This tax elimination is just part of the largest tax cut package in Indiana history, one that will save Hoosier taxpayers more than $650 million per year once fully implemented. Family farms and businesses are worth fighting to keep. Our community is home to many farms that have been owned and run by the same family for generations. Recently I had the honor of congratulating six families that have owned their farms for more than 100 years. One of those families actually has had their family farm for more than 200 years! These businesses remind us of what can be achieved with dedication and hard work.

One piece of legislation designed specifically to help the farms in our community and around the state was Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 319. SEA 319 addressed the assessment of farmland for property tax purposes.

The Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) produced a list of changes last year that equaled an immediate 20 percent increase in property taxes on farmland. The Legislature overwhelmingly agreed that farmers should not be subject to that much of a jump, so we fast-tracked the bill through the General Assembly. SEA 319 put a halt to the dramatic property tax increase and allowed the DLGF to used land assessments from 2011 for property taxes payable in 2014, while also reviewing the assessments causing the hike in agricultural land value.

Many Hoosiers think that last year’s drought is an issue of the past, but farmers are still feeling the financial pinch. We addressed this issue to prevent additional burdens on our renowned agriculture community. Interim study committees have been examining agriculture property tax issues, as outlined in the bill. They will provide a recommendation the Legislature prior to the beginning of session.

With these new laws in place, families can rest easy knowing their businesses and farms that they worked so hard to develop will remain in the family and not be at risk of being sold. Eliminating the inheritance tax and adjusting farmland property tax rates will help many residing throughout Indiana and make our state a more attractive place to live, work and raise a family.

State Rep. Cindy Ziemke serves as Vice Chairman of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Ziemke represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.