The Home section of the New York Times isn't usually the place to turn for penetrating coverage of tax policy, but today's cover article, about a "former marketing and sales executive" who bought a 300-acre farm in Sonoma County, California, tells an interesting story. From the Times:
The farm, which is about 40 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, cost $3.9 million, but the Smiths were able to get an open-space easement, financed through county sales tax initiatives, that returned $2.2 million, on the condition that their land never be developed.
So if you are some lower-middle-class farmhand living with your family in a rental apartment in Santa Rosa and shopping at Walmart, your sales tax dollars go to subsidize millionaire farmers to make it harder to turn farmland into affordable housing? I guess one could argue that paying a farmer to preserve a farm is cheaper than having the government own and run the farm outright or cheaper than turning the land into a public park. But there's something about these conservation easements, which have been covered earlier on this site here and here, that makes me uncomfortable.