WA State House OKs farm tax break
TURNER; The News Tribune
Olympia, WA - Farmers in Pierce, Thurston, King and four other urban
counties would get a small tax break under terms of bill the state
House of Representatives approved Wednesday.
House Bill 1677, sponsored by state Rep. Jan Shabro (R-Lake Tapps),
would exempt farm equipment from the county portion of the property
It wouldn't amount to much in Pierce County - perhaps $34,000 a year
collectively - because there is only $8.8 million worth of tractors,
combines and other farm equipment on the tax rolls.
But every bit helps, Shabro said.
"Urban counties are really trying to keep what little farmland
is left," said Shabro, a former Pierce County councilwoman.
The state already exempts farm equipment from the state portion of
the personal property tax, beginning last year.
The House voted 92-0 to approve the additional tax break on the county
portion. A similar measure passed the House last year but died in
the Senate budget committee.
Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester), chairman of the Senate Agriculture
Committee, said last year's measure applied to all 39 counties and
was opposed by lawmakers from rural counties who rely heavily on property
taxes. HB 1677 applies only to Pierce, King, Snohomish, Thurston,
Kitsap, Spokane and Clark counties - areas where farmlands are more
threatened by urban development.
Narrowing the bill to those seven counties should improve its chances
of passing, Swecker said. The measure is likely to be referred to
his committee later this week.
"I'll push it forward," Swecker said.
Statewide, $329 million worth of farm equipment has been taken off
the state tax rolls.
Shabro said while she was on the County Council she looked into why
the county wasn't giving a tax break to help preserve agricultural
lands and found out the county didn't have the authority to grant
a tax exemption. That's why she introduced the bill when she got to
Olympia, she said.
The property tax rate in Pierce County last year was $3.81 per $1,000,
including both the general and road tax. That's the portion that farmers
no longer would pay for their farm equipment as long as that equipment
is used exclusively to grow and produce agricultural products during
the calendar year in which the exemption is claimed.
If if becomes law, the new tax exemption probably would first apply
to tax collections in 2005.
(Published 12:01AM, February 12th, 2004)