Buffer credit again before Legislature

The Senate Property Tax Subcommittee considered a proposal this week to provide a state-funded property tax credit for land that has been converted to riparian buffers in accordance with the state buffer law. The credit concept has been proposed by former Governor Dayton, Governor Walz, and Senate DFLers in the form of an amendment to the 2019 tax bill but defeated each time. Farm groups and clean water advocates are hopeful that this year will yield different results.

In 2015, Minnesota began requiring landowners to maintain 50-foot strips of perennial vegetative buffers along lakes, rivers and streams, and buffers of 16.5 feet along ditches. In order to comply, many farmers removed portions of their agricultural land from production. Advocates say this approach would provide those landowners with compensation to account for the resulting income loss.

The bill heard this week would provide a credit equal to the net tax capacity-based property taxes attributable to the portion of 2a and 2b property consisting of the buffer, effective with taxes payable 2022. The credit would be listed separately on property tax statements, but the state would reimburse local taxing jurisdictions for the lost revenue. The full cost is about nine million dollars per year and could apply to about 450,000 acres of riparian buffers statewide. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill. (SF 251)