Robert Heidgerken is a popular Meade County Republican. He won his seat on the Meade County Commission in 2010 with nearly 72% of the vote.
Chairman Heidgerken also agrees with me that we should replace South Dakota's Rube-Goldberg productivity-based agricultural property tax with a straight-up income tax:
A rancher himself, Heidgerken empathizes with the landowners dealing with drastic tax hikes. “Even though it’s a production based system I think their (the state’s) goal is to get it to market value and nobody can afford the taxes on market value. Recreation, development and investment - that’s what’s driving the value of land in Meade county, not production,” he said. Plus, he said, farmers from the Eastern side of the state may look at some of the soil types of Meade County grasslands and assume they can farm it for higher profit margins over cattle production. “But they’ve got crop insurance money backing them and that would be another case of investment driving the market.”
Heidgerken said that the current use of the land isn’t taken into consideration, so farmland and grassland with the same soil type are valued at the same dollar figure.
...“The fairest thing would be to go to an agricultural income tax,” said Heidgerken [Carrie Stadheim, "Meade County Property Owners Appeal Valuations," Tri-State Livestock News, 2013.04.30].
Commissioner Heidgerken is responding to complaints from his fellow Meade County ranchers who have seen their taxes jump since South Dakota switched to the ag-productivity assessment model in 2009. Mud Butte rancher Bill Kluck tells reporter Carrie Stadheim that he has seen his property taxes climb 10% a year for the last three years and now 88% this year. Wasta rancher Morris Linn faces a 75% hike this year, and he can't figure out why:
[Linn] added, “They (the county representatives) keep saying that they are going off soil type and topography but that’s been the same here for the last one hundred years. Nothing’s changed; you can only still raise so many pounds of beef and so many bushels of wheat on the same acreage.”
The cattle rancher and small grains farmer said he doesn’t know how he can improve his bottom line enough to pay the increased taxes. “The worst thing is that if they get our assessment up there and then raise the mill levy again that will compound our problem,” Linn said. “They will probably double our taxes if they raise our mill levy” [Stadheim, 2013.04.30].
These ranchers want taxes based on their ability to pay. They can deal with tax increases if they are keyed to income increases. They would happily trade the current productivity assessment—which is based on arcane math, wishes, and other people's good market luck—for a simple and transparent income tax.