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Rhoden: Give ranchers tax breaks

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — A state legislator from Meade County wants to discuss abatement of property taxes in response to the October blizzard that decimated western cattle herds.

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Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said a building that loses a roof can qualify for tax abatement. But livestock aren’t considered real estate, he said, and there’s a question whether their deaths would qualify because livestock aren’t subject to property taxes.

South Dakota law allows tax abatement by county commissions “for the year in which a loss occurred because of flood, fire, storm, or other unavoidable casualty.”

Rhoden made his remarks Tuesday at the conclusion of the state task force on agricultural land assessments. He chairs the panel and is also a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

“The horror stories just continue to emerge, unimaginable losses,” he said.

Former Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Aberdeen, likewise expressed empathy for the ranchers who have lost big parts of their herds.

The law in question is South Dakota Codified Law 10-18-2. Rhoden said he’d like to have discussions in the coming weeks before the start of the 2014 legislative session about what would be possible.

A question was raised by Rep. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, regarding what school boards and county commissions would do to offset the lost taxes.

“You can’t just take away their source of funding unless the state is willing to come in and replace those monies,” Peterson said.