Monday, February 26, 2018

WisGOP chose WMC over homeowners on "dark stores", and must pay a price

While the GOP-run State Assembly tried to jam through dozens of bills at the scheduled end of their session last week, there was one bill that didn't make the cut. And the failure to do so could raise the property taxes of Wisconsin homeowners by millions of dollars.

An in-depth article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette last week described how numerous assessments have been reduced for corporations statewide.
Data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue show that 136 companies obtained reduced assessments for more than 200 manufacturing facilities around the state between 2012 and 2016....

Among the largest losers:
► Manufacturers in Milwaukee County reduced their assessed values by more than $18 million, the most of any county.
► Outagamie County had the second-biggest reduction, losing $14.5 million in assessed value.
► Brown County lost more than $11 million, while Sheboygan County lost $7 million and Manitowoc County lost $4.7 million.
► In central and northern Wisconsin, Oneida County lost nearly $4.5 million and Marathon County lost more than $2.5 million in taxable property.

Expera Specialty Solutions secured one of the biggest cuts of any single company: It obtained reductions in the assessed value of its paper mills in Kaukauna, De Pere, Mosinee and Rhinelander by a combined $13.6 million.
Later in the story, author Jonathan Anderson describes a situation where Sturm Foods was the largest employer in the Village of Manawa, and was going to go to court to get their plant’s assessed value reduced from $30 million to $6.5 million in the city of 1,300 people.

Eventually, Manawa and Sturm Foods reached an agreement which lowered the assessment by $10 million, but even that smaller reduction had a high price for those 1,300 residents. Since the City still needed to have a similar amount of property taxes in order to function, the property tax rate for homeowners in Manawa went up by $2.36 per $1,000.

Doesn't look abandoned, but it's assessed like it is.

With this circumstance repeating throughout the state, a sizable amount of legislators from both parties
signed onto legislation that would end the "dark store" loophole and other bases for property assessment that favor corporations over homeowners. These bills had gotten hearings and are ready to be voted on by either house of the Legislature, if the GOP legislative leaders want it to happen.
One would limit use of the so-called “dark store” theory that has been employed in Wisconsin and other states. Retailers have used it to challenge their tax assessments by contending their property values should be linked to the value of other large retail stores that are vacant, or “dark.”

The other would reverse a 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that found the city of Madison improperly assessed the value of two Walgreens stores. That case since has formed a precedent for assessments of certain leased retail buildings, which local governments contend has artificially depressed their value….

But their opponents include some of the state’s most politically influential business groups, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and retail giants Walmart, Walgreens and CVS.
That conflict led to this seamy scene at the end of Thursday night's Assembly session, which was scheduled to be the last one of the 2017-19 biennium.

And note who Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos says were unsuccessful in negotiating any kind of dark store bill- HINT, it wasn't the legislators.

And the reason any deal failed? Because as Mark Sommerhauser reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, the LWM wouldn't do WMC's bidding, and because GOP Reps wouldn't be able to hide how they voted.
A compromise floated by WMC and Assembly GOP leaders “would have codified the Walgreen’s decision, which is exactly the opposite of what we are seeking,” the league said in its statement…

The office of the Assembly sponsor of the bills, Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, declined to comment Friday. Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz, meanwhile, said Assembly Republicans approached him about holding a voice vote — not a roll call, in which members’ votes are recorded — on a version of the dark store compromise opposed by the league. Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Democrats declined because that proposal wouldn’t solve the problem.“Not reaching a decision is making a decision,” Hintz said. “Assembly Republicans made a decision to continue to punish residential taxpayers by shifting the tax burden.”
Given that the GOP-run Legislature refuses to take up a bill clarifying the “dark store” standard, you’d have to think a definitive decision on the issue will be left to the Wisconsin Supreme Court at some future date. And given that Michael Screnock has already been baacked by more than $500,000 from WMC, with more corporate cash likely to follow, want to take a guess how he’d vote?

You’d also think that if Rebecca Dallett’s campaign is smart, they’d point out Screnock's WMC ownership for April's Supreme Court election, and say that Dallett is the only candidate who would protect homeowners by making corporations have to pay property taxes on the same standard as everybody else. Wisconsin Dems should do the same for November's elections, and make the GOPs pay for being so bought that they wouldn't pass a law that to end the "dark store" ripoff.


  1. Good luck attracting an educated millennial work force with such inequitable tax policies as this.

    1. Or getting young families to buy homes when you throw all of the burden onto homeowners and then defund schools to try to keep those property taxes down.

  2. Yeah. But won’t this create more jobs? Just kidding!