Efforts are underway in the Ohio Senate to save farmers and local governments money, state Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told a group of nearly 30 leaders from varying sectors throughout Champaign County during a Champaign Economic Partnership-sponsored breakfast held Tuesday at Robert Rothschild Farm in Urbana.
Huffman, who presides over the 12th Senate District – which he referenced as the top agricultural district in Ohio – said the senate could vote as soon as today on passing Senate Bill 36, a measure that seeks to reform the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) formula used to determine how farm land is valued for tax purposes.
“Essentially, several years back the state came up with a different way to value agricultural land, recognizing the unique nature of that,” he said. “What has happened in the past several years, especially, is the formula has gotten out of whack. The formula hasn’t changed, but the way it’s applied has caused taxes for farmers or owners of agricultural land to triple.
“That’s not what taxes are supposed to do,” Huffman said. “We are supposed to be able to anticipate our tax burden.”
The bill, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, appears destined for passage by the senate. How it fares after that, is anyone’s guess, Huffman added.
“We are going to pass a bill that gives the agricultural industry some relief,” he said. “That’s probably going to happen (today). We don’t know what the house is going to do or what the governor is going to do.”
In an attempt to save local governments money when they embark on construction projects aimed at improving cities and counties throughout the state, Huffman said he recently introduced Senate Bill 72, which gives local officials the option to pay less than the prevailing wage requirement for projects being funded by taxpayers.
“What I call it is the state-mandated wage to local governments, which really isn’t prevailing wage at all,” Huffman said. “Prevailing wage, in my estimation, is determined by what the market decides the way it should be. What my bill says is that local governments should decide for themselves how much they want to pay to whatever vendors they have.”
He added the prevailing wage issue has a greater financial impact on areas with lower tax revenues like Champaign County, where local governments could save money if they could bid for services on the open market.
“Essentially, we have a system where there is a government-imposed extra burden on local governments,” Huffman said. “As a result of that, either projects aren’t happening or there isn’t money to spend on other things.”
He added, fortunately for many communities throughout the state, the prevailing wage requirement is “a pretty simple fix.”
“Why don’t we just let everybody do what they want and manage it the way they want,” Huffman said. “Let the commissioners manage Champaign County … .”
Garnering support at the state level for Senate Bill 72 is going to be a challenge, he added, but he’s in it for the long haul.
“I’d like to try to get this (bill) done, because it seems to be a pretty easy answer,” he said. “Right now I’m not getting very far because of how a lot of people feel about it, but I’m going to press forward on it.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.