Thursday, August 16, 2018

'Dark store' tax revolt, consequences for GOP, could spread from West Allis

Ask Wisconsinites what comes to mind about West Allis and they're likely to say "State Fair."

Today, it could also be "tax revolt."

Because low-key, generally-conservative West Allis voters said in an advisory referendum Tuesday by a 91%-9% spread that they wanted the under-the-radar tax loophole known as 'dark store' slammed shut on behalf of everyday homeowners and small businesses.

Also called 'the Walmart loophole,' it allows major retailers get their property taxes cut as their stores and facilities were dark, or closed, regardless of their age or profitability.

I wrote about this loophole in 2016, but ever since there has been only crickets from Walker, while his special-interest water-carrying lieutenants who control the Legislature killed no doubt with his wink-and-nod a bi-partisan effort to get rid of it last year, as Wisconsin Gazette reported.
Earlier this year, state Sen. Janis Ringhand’s bill, A.B. 386, attempted to close the loophole in Wisconsin and was supported by over 60 bipartisan co-sponsors and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. But in the final days of the session, Assembly Leader Robin Vos and Senate Speaker Scott Fitzgerald blocked Ringhand’s bill and tried to push a “compromise” supported by business interests that, according to the League, was “worse than current law.” 
Because of Vos and Fitzgerald’s last-minute bait-and-switch, nothing was done to address the dark store tax loophole. 
Here's a bit of my 2016 posting, below, that is relevant today given Walker's fresh round of campaign-tinged-and-timed-2018 sales tax holiday and rebate check handouts:
Because while Walker wants gimmicky one-time sales tax holidays and child credits as election-year tricks, the GOP is enabling its big business supporters and donors to get their property tax assessments cut permanently... by failing to close the so-called "dark store" loophole:
...a tax loophole that lets big-box retailers reduce their property taxes at the expense of homeowners and small get ahead of the curve, call our legislators and spread the word about how major manufacturers get breaks, too;
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.
At least 84 companies appealed their assessed value to the department in 2017. Many of those cases are pending.
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...Oneida County lost nearly $4.5 million and Marathon County lost more than $2.5 million in taxable property.
So when these after-the-fact reductions are lobbied-and-lawyered-through, local governments which need the revenue to pay for public safety, schools, or road repairs again either have to do more with less, or max out unpopular local taxes rates and fees.

Leaving state officials free to pose for holy pictures about cutting taxes while, in fact, they knowingly push the political costs onto local officials and the financial costs onto everyday taxpayers.

If I were handling the Evers-Barnes schedule, I'd immediately get West Allis on the calendar and push the issue into speeches ads about the true costs of Walker and his party's hostility to tax fairness and transparency.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is so much hate and ignorance in West Allis, it would likely make no difference to do anything there. That is going to go for Walker, because West Allis is exactly the kind of low-information racist community that GOP's dog-whistle attacks are catalted fir (i.e. You don't want to "be like Milwaukee" meaning multicultural and with African Americans).

And the schools are now chronically in-crisis because the district's top management fell for one of the biggest cons ever perpetrated by a public institution:

Don't kid yourself -- they were not victims, they were reckless and stooopid. Thinking that Evers will pick up West Allis is a mistake. Evers has his work cut-out for him and he will have to be smart -- he needs massive turnout in Kenosha/Racine, Janesville/Beliot, Eau Claire/Menomonie, LaCross, Superior, and Madison-Milwaukee corridor.

It would help if he started talking about how he will work with the NEXT DPI Superintendent to improve schools -- there he has potential.

Turning around West Allis or Waukesha? Just let Walker fatigue generate support there. These are not the areas that will win an election for him.