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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Green Acres heads to conference committee

Friday, March 27, 2009
Neighbors- Green Acres legislation was sent to a conference committee on Monday, potentially bringing us closer to fixing problems with the agricultural land program. The Green Acres “fixes” were sent to the House from the Senate as amendments tacked onto a federal tax conformity bill which originated in the House. The House voted to not concur with the Senate’s changes – some tax conformity components were removed and Green Acres additions were made – so now the conference committee will work to reconcile the bill (HF392). The Senate’s Green Acres additions are not perfect, but they are steps in the right direction. Here are the Senate’s Green Acres provisions in HF392: • Rural vacant land (RVL) will continue to qualify until: 1) the land is sold, transferred or subdivided 2) the 2013 assessment year • RVL that is withdrawn from the green acres program and enrolled in the Land Conservation Property Tax Program will not be subject to back taxes. • When land no longer becomes eligible for the green acres program, it is subject to a three (3) year payback. • Government sponsored conservation land (ie: CRP, RIM) does qualify for green acres. • Extends the definition of class 2a property The lack of a true grandfather clause is one key item for the conference committee to address. Another issue to resolve pertains to land transfers and the fact children of Green Acres participants are the only ones who can acquire land and maintain its program eligibility. These items are central to the debate over the damaging changes made to Green Acres in 2008. We must keep in mind the conference committee is not obligated to maintain the Green Acres fixes. The fixes could be stripped, leaving us looking for other ways to get this done. Nearly 20 bills have been created to fully repeal or modify the changes made in 2008, but it is unlikely any of them will stand alone and pass through the Legislature on their own merit. That’s why it is so important for the conference committee build on the Senate’s groundwork to restore functionality in Green Acres. I’ll keep you posted, Dean
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