When I visited Charlie Hoffman last August, the outgoing state representative and passionate prairie grasser said that the current agricultural land tax formula discourages grassland restoration and preservation and drives turning prairie grassland to row crops. Hoffman suggested our property tax system should look at actual use of ag land instead of potential use.

Toward that end, the interim committee that studied ag land assessment recommended Senate Bill 4, which would have funded research by SDSU economists on the impact of switching to an actual-use formula. SB 4 wouldn't change the tax system; it would just study a possible change.

Landowners, the Farm Bureau, the Cattlemen's Association, Ducks Unlimited, and the Izaak Walton League thought a study on actual-use assessment sounded like a good idea. The Corn Growers did not, and neither did the full Senate. Last Wednesday, the Senate killed SB 4 16–18. That may sound close, but remember that, as a bill planning to spend money (and Senate Appropriations had already one-bucked the original $151K price tag to keep the bill moving), SB 4 required a two-thirds vote, or 24 Senators. All 18 nays came from Republicans, who apparently not only won't implement a better tax system but won't even let us study possible improvements in our tax system.