Illinois farmers concerned about energy, taxes, government spending

(The Center Square) – Since Gov. J.B. Pritzker said thanks to a “boatload” of federal tax dollars, local governments should freeze or lower property taxes. Illinois farmers are getting concerned about growing government spending.

Tuesday was Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, featuring events highlighting one of the state’s largest industries, which accounts for about $19 billion of economic activity. There was a brunch in the morning honoring family farms that have been in existence for generations.

Outside of official Agriculture Day events at the Illinois State Fair, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert there are a list of concerns farmers have. Among them is the cost of the state’s second-highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

“Farmland assessment has always been one of our priorities and it continues to go up,” Guebert said. “Taxes is always hard, input costs, they continue to grow.”

Asked about it at a separate event in Springfield, Pritzker said local taxing bodies should lower property taxes.

“Why is this a good year to do that? Schools received not only increased funding from the state of Illinois, but received a boatload of support from the federal government as well,” Pritzker said.

Schools are a major driver of local property taxes in Illinois, which The Tax Foundation ranked as the second highest in the nation behind only New Jersey for property taxes.

The state increased spending for K-12 by $350 million on top of the federal government sending an additional $8.2 billion in education funding. That doesn’t include nearly $2.4 billion in COVID-19 relief for higher education in Illinois from federal taxpayers.

But, Guebert sees the U.S. Congress discussing $3.5 trillion more on top of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan and worries it will hit the inheritance of future generations of farmers.

“Same as small business in the rural communities, we have to have that opportunity to do that,” Guebert said. “It would be costly and expensive for the next generation if we lose that stepped up basis.”

Gubert also raised concerns over a proposed energy deal coming together at the statehouse.

The governor has been pushing for a bill to provide ratepayer subsidies to nuclear power plants and close coal fired power plants by no later than 2045, if they meet certain criteria. He says it’s necessary to combat climate change.

Guebert said farmers are worried about the energy reliability issues.

“And for our citizens all across the state of Illinois, it’s important to have reliable, affordable electricity,“ Guebert said.

He also said consumers would be on the hook for bonds if plants are required to close early, and worried about some eminent domain issues the bill raises.

Later in the day at a separate event, Pritzker said not everyone is happy about the bill.

“That’s sort of the definition of compromise,” Pritzker said. “You have to give up a little something on your side, other people on the other side have to give up a little in order that you can meet in the middle.”

It’s still unclear when such a measure would surface for a possible vote.

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