Ag board chair responds in support of transfer tax

Published 2:42 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

If you don&squo;t sell, you don&squo;t pay

Why do lobbying groups from the big city keep trying to tell Polk County what to do? Last week the John Locke Foundation weighed in, telling us we shouldn&squo;t want a land transfer tax (LTT). And they apparently don&squo;t even know what we want to use it for.

Here&squo;s the most important thing to remember about the proposed LTT: &dquo;If you don&squo;t sell, you don&squo;t pay.&dquo; Unlike a property tax, which property owners pay every year, or a sales tax, which most of us pay every day, you will only ever pay an LTT if you are involved in a property sale. If you don&squo;t sell, you don&squo;t pay. You don&squo;t pay if you refinance and heirs don&squo;t pay when they inherit property.

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But let&squo;s think about who would pay: when a developer buys a big tract of land for development, an LTT would be collected on that purchase. Then when that tract is broken up and sold as individual lots, the new buyers would pay an LTT on those lots. And many of Polk&squo;s new homes will be vacation or second homes, which statistically sell more often than principal residences do ‐ and the LTT will be collected for those sales, too.

What this means is that the very people who will most impact Polk County&squo;s growth and land use will pay most of the LTT and, at the same time, help preserve the rural character everyone loves.

Opponents say a land transfer tax will slow growth. Well, according to the countywide survey, 86.8 percent of county citizens want to slow growth. The proceeds will go to preserve farmland, which 83.9 percent of survey respondents want to do. And the LTT rate is very small: just four-tenths of one percent, or $400 on a $100,000 transaction.

So, 1) an LTT could slow growth; 2) developments will foot most of the bill; and 3) the proceeds will go toward preserving farmland, which in turn will help keep property taxes down, protect natural resources, minimize traffic growth, strengthen the local economy and ensure that future generations have land to grow food on. Remind me again, which is the bad part?

The proposed LTT is the best tax most of us will never pay. So don&squo;t listen to out-of-town lobbyists, listen to my cow, Rose: Vote YES for the land transfer tax!

Doug Harmon, Chair,

Agricultural Economic Devel. & Farmland Preservation Boar