LETTER: Dark-store bills targeting big boxes would hurt all business

To Ozaukee Press:

On Dec. 12, Ozaukee Press published the editorial “Voters to legislators: End the big-box tax dodge.” This editorial oddly touted the results of biased referendum questions as evidence to end the non-existent “dark stores loophole.” All those referendums are evidence of is that your tax dollars were hard at work encouraging voters around the state to vote in favor of higher property taxes. Quite literally, local governments used your money to advocate in favor of hiking your taxes.

These referendums were canned questions written up by taxpayer-funded lobbyists in Madison, not your local elected officials, and the questions were biased. The policy behind the “dark store” bill in the Legislature is even worse.

The bill would allow tax assessors to value occupied property higher solely because of its occupancy. For example, if you had two homes identical in every respect except that one was occupied and one was vacant, the occupied home would be valued and taxed more than the vacant one. No rational buyer would pay more for the occupied home than the vacant one. The idea is absurd on its face.

Another bill would allow tax assessors to value and tax financial agreements, contracts and other things of value that are “inextricably intertwined” with a property. This bill targets the value of financing agreements that help businesses open or grow. Tax assessors want to add the value of those agreements to the value of the building and land when determining the amount of property tax owed.

These pieces of legislation would result in tax increases on businesses through no fault of their own. Increasing the tax assessment on a property based on occupancy or based on financing does not reflect economic reality. The business will not have expanded, improvements will not have been made to the property and the neighborhood will not have become more attractive to the market. In short, the market value will not have changed—just the tax bill.

All businesses and residential properties would be roped into abiding by these new subjective property tax assessment laws. The Wisconsin Constitution’s Uniformity Clause would spread these tax increases to all property taxpayers because it requires all property to be taxed in a uniform manner. There is not an exception that allows small businesses, manufacturers, and residential properties to be taxed differently from big-box retailers.

Higher taxes and more litigation are not the kind of change Wisconsin needs. WMC is a strong supporter of the reforms taken place over the last eight years that make Wisconsin a more competitive place to work and live. Let’s not go backwards now and raise taxes on job creators and working families who help our state continue to move forward.

Cory Fish
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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