NOTE: This is a lengthy blog. Why? Because it’s a complex issue. Looking for a quick sound bite? Go over to Facebook. Want some thoughtful, informative analysis? Read on, and thank you.
I fully intend to answer the above. But first, some needed clarification.
Do I think my friend and colleague is a liberal? No I don’t.
However, on a particular pet issue, Mayor Olson has not only alligned himself with heavy hitters from the left, he is walking their walk, and talking their talk.
The issue is a pair of bills now before the WI state Legislature that would end according to Olson and his lefty buddies a so-called dark stores loophole.” They claim current law enables retailers to seek millions of dollars in property tax reductions by comparing their businesses to stores that no longer operate. Local officials like Olson say they’re forced to increase everybody else’s taxes whenever a dark-stores lawsuit filed by a retailer like Menards or Lowes is successful.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The bills Olson seeks are dead in the current legislative session. Dead. They have no chance of passing in 2018. Yet that doesn’t stop Olson and his new lefty cronies from wasting time and energy on this issue. Keep in mind as you read on and I hope you will.
Olson and others claim because big box retailers can utilize the “loophole” local officials around the state like Olson have no choice but to raise property taxes on constituent homeowners.
Oh, my, but that’s rich, and such baloney.
So, when did Steve Olson go liberal? I’ll tell you.
December 11, 2017. And it was captured on camera by Fox 6 News.
There was Steve, standing side by side with Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. And a host of other local leaders, many of whom you’ll never see at the next right wing conspiracy meeting.
On December 11, 2017, they stood and bashed businesses and demanded they be taxed more. And they moaned and whined that without state action by lawmakers in Madison they would be forced to raise property taxes on the poor, little homeowners.
December 11, 2017. And Olson to this day is solidly entrenched in the lefty camp.
Olson and the rest are spewing talking points right out of the lefty handbook. For example:
They are bad.
They are evil.
They do not pay their fair share.
Because big, bad corporations don’t pay their fair share, who suffers? That’s right. You, the little guy.
You have to pay higher taxes because big, bad, evil corporations don’t pay enough.
We’ve tried to fix this but the big, bad state of Wisconsin won’t listen to us.
It’s classic liberalism, and Olson sadly has drunk the Kool-Aid.
Olson presides over a city in Franklin that has a horrendous business climate. Yet he fights openly, publicly against businesses located in his city. Sorry, but to me that ‘s unconscionable.
The mayor pleads innocence, that he’s not bashing businesses like Menards. That’s garbage, especially when he publicly states places like Menards “own” the legislative leadership in Madison that refuse to schedule the bills he supports because of their financial contributions to said legislative leaders.
I’m stunned Olson would make such inflammatory and irresponsible remarks.
Did I mention the bills are dead? They’re not happening. Yet Olson continues to gamble political capital.
I’ve been trying to raise public awareness of the efforts by big box stores to reduce their property assessments and property tax bills due to a loophole in state law. My post with the picture of the refund check to Lowes reached more than 40,000 readers.
Steve Olson’s Facebook page, 2/23/18
While the State Legislature is pushing through bills with little meaning for taxpayers municipalities are writing checks to big box stores who have sued us using a bad court interpretation of the STATE tax manual allowing them to reduce their property assessments by a lot. I was sick to my stomach this afternoon signing the first of two checks to Lowes after they sued Franklin. This one for $25k and the next for about $35k. YOUR money. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and John Menard own the legislature leadership. You get to pay the bill. Note where the check is going.
Mayor Steve Olson’s Facebook page, 2/16/18
I was sick to my stomach this afternoon signing the first of two checks to Lowes after they sued Franklin.
Hey, Steve. Sick to your stomach, buddy? Now you know how I’ve felt every December since I first moved into Franklin in 1992 and started paying out of orbit property taxes.
Finally, the main and most important piece of this blog.
The mayor is doing what he thinks is right. I’ve often thought that if he thinks the state is so woefully wrong (I guess the whole sex predator thing escapes him) that maybe he should run for state office if he thinks he could straighten things out.
I do not fault the mayor for being passionate on this issue. But he’s also been disingenuous, because there are two sides to this story. The mayor fails to realize.
On social media the mayor has gone head to toe.
Agree with him? YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!
Disagree? Again, it’s the lefty playbook.
You don’t understand.
You misunderstood what I said/wrote.
You didn’t read what I wrote.
Hmm. Kinda insulting.
Bottom line: The reason local property taxes, especially those in Franklin are skyrocketing isn’t because of big businesses. It’s because of the people in charge, mayors and aldermen who SPEND AND TAX TOO MUCH.
FINAL IMPORTANT MATERIAL
No one, I mean no one in Wisconsin has been following this issue more than Scott Manley of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. I worked with him for many years when we both were employed by the Wisconsin State Senate. Manley is extremely sharp, and quite frankly, I trust him more than I do my own mayor who has suddenly turned into a “politician.”
On a whim I called my old colleague Manley late last week and asked him if he was pursuing any update on this story. Did I mention the bills are dead even though the squawking goes on?
Manley told me he just finished writing an op-ed piece he was going to pitch to local newspapers. By the way, good luck, Scott. The newspapers have been totally in the bag for this lefty anti-business crusade. And why not? The spin is incredibly easy: Big business..bad. Don’t pay their fair share. Local little man suffers.
We close with the other side of the story from Manley, the side Mayor Olson and his lefty friends aren’t telling you. Manley forwarded me his op-ed piece:
Dark Store Issue is Really About Higher Taxes
Everybody loves an underdog, and that’s especially true when a storyline pits the “little guy” versus a large corporation.
This is the narrative local governments have spun in the so-called “dark stores” debate. They’ve positioned the issue as greedy corporations attempting to shift their tax burden to homeowners. This makes for an interesting story, but it’s simply not true.
In reality, there are two indisputable facts that have been left out of the debate on this issue. First, the property tax burden has actually shifted from homeowners to businesses over the last decade – the exact opposite of what your local politicians have likely told you.
Second, the dark store legislation is an effort to legalize tax hikes on businesses that assessors have been attempting to impose, illegally, for more than a decade.
This debate isn’t about “closing a loophole” or forcing someone to “pay their fair share.” It’s about local governments wanting to tax to the max and villainize the businesses that provide jobs in their communities.
Let’s look at the data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. From 2008 to 2017, the share of residential property taxes statewide has actually decreased 2.4 percent. On the contrary, the share of property taxes paid by businesses has increased by more than 10 percent over the same time period.
In other words, if property tax collections were a pie, the slice from homeowners has gotten smaller, while the slice from businesses has increased. Any politician who tells you businesses are shifting their burden to homeowners is simply wrong.
Why are businesses paying more? It’s due in part because some assessors have unlawfully raised the property assessment of businesses by inappropriately adding the value of certain lease payments to the value of the land and building. The Supreme Court declared this practice illegal in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped assessors from continuing their efforts to impose this illegal tax hike on businesses.
Some politicians have criticized businesses for challenging these unlawful assessments — as if it’s their patriotic duty to be overtaxed.
Keep in mind that cities, towns and villages have a self-interest in assessing property higher because it means they can collect more taxes. That’s why it’s so important that our laws allow property owners to challenge their assessment with an unbiased third-party review to ensure fairness and adherence to the law.
When these disputes go to court, businesses consistently win because the higher assessment was not lawfully imposed. The courts then force the local government to give back the amount of the tax that never should have been collected in the first place.
It’s frustrating that local officials complain about having to give back money they illegally took from property owners. After being forced to return the money they had no authority to take in the first place, local governments then have the gall to complain that businesses aren’t paying their fair share.
Here’s some advice to local officials: if you don’t like paying back money that you took illegally, and if you don’t like paying legal fees when taxpayers take you to court to get their money back, just follow the law.
Instead of following the law, local officials are looking to change it.
They’re vigorously lobbying for a new law that will allow them to raise taxes in a manner the courts have consistently told them they cannot do. They’re asking the legislature to give them taxing authority that no other state in the country has allowed.
This municipal “tax to the max” scheme is so bad, even big-taxing Governor Jim Doyle had the good sense to veto the idea in 2009.
There are many other concerns with these bills, including unconstitutionality, which I cannot mention in the limited space afforded by this column. I will, however, give an example.
Through no fault of their own, and with no changes to their land or building, Badger Meter’s facility in Mount Pleasant would see a $68,000 per year increase in their property taxes if the dark store bills became law.
Raising taxes on homegrown companies like Badger Meter, who are actively bringing workers back to our state, is not the way to make Wisconsin prosperous. It also happens to be incredibly unfair.
WMC negotiated a compromise prohibiting a vacant property that is dilapidated or distressed from being used as a comparable for assessment purposes. Lobbyists for local governments could have taken that compromise and declared a legislative victory. They rejected that compromise because that’s not what this issue is really about.
Instead, they’re holding out for the oppressive tax-hiking authority that no other state is willing to authorize. Governor Doyle rejected this idea before, and the legislature should reject it again.