Lengthy… please read all.
Statewide, there will be about 20 dark store referendums on Tuesday. Miraculously referendum-crazy Franklin is not one of them although Franklin Mayor Steve Olson did his best, only to be rejected in a rare moment of common sense by the Franklin Common Council.
There will be referendums in West Milwaukee, Glendale, DeForest, Merrill, Sun Prairie, and the counties of Washington, Washburn, Dane, Portage, Brown, Jefferson, Rock, Kenosha, Manitowoc, Winnebago, Green Lake, Vernon, Monroe, Barron, Walworth, Outagamie and Grant.
In a nutshell the referenda will ask voters to approve higher taxes.
So why will they pass big time? Because they’re easily a winning issue. A false one, yes. But one that can persuade voters in a matter of seconds because from the perspective of the phonies, it’s an extremely simple argument.
Super huge retailers.
Don’t pay enough taxes.
Places like us (Franklin, Milwaukee, etc.) get taken to court.
Retailers sue us.
We have no choice.
We owe big bad retailers money we lost in court.
We must sock it to taxpayers to make up for the loss.
We must raise property taxes.
BUT we stood against big bad retailers.
We are tough.
We are courageous.
Blah blah blah.
Pretty easy to get railroaded.
The actual opposite is true.
Local governments, like my own here in Franklin, have illegally over-assessed businesses. Not hard to understand here in Tax Hell, Wisconsin.
Here’s something else that’s plausible. Aggressive assessors have valued and taxed businesses as high as three or four times the amount the business would sell for on the open market. If your home was assessed at this rate, you might consider raising holy Hell at City Hall.
It’s a fact there has been a tax shift, but not the shift Steve Olson, etc. have been yelling and screaming about. In the past decade, Wisconsin Department of Revenue numbers show the tax burden has shifted by about 3 percent from homeowners to businesses — not the other way around as the referendum questions all claim.
The referendum questions should be neutrally worded and simple but are anything but.
Suppose you are an average voter and walk into the booth Tuesday and have never heard about this entire dark store deal. You see the referendum question. You’d be excused if your eyes were glazed over. Here are some referendum examples:
Village of Somers
“Should the state Legislature enact proposed legislation that closes the dark store loopholes, which currently allow commercial retail properties to significantly reduce the assessed valuation and property taxes of such properties, resulting in a substantial shift in taxes levied against other tax paying entities, such as residential homeowners, and/or cuts in essential services provided by an affected municipality?”
“Should the state legislature protect residential property taxpayers by preventing commercial and manufacturing property owners from using tax loopholes that shift an ever-increasing tax burden to homeowners who already pay 68 percent of the statewide property tax levy by enacting legislation that: 1) prohibits using closed, vacant (dark) properties as comparable properties for determining the assessed value of open, occupied, and fully operational properties; and 2) overturns the 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Walgreens v. city of Madison, which is being interpreted by the courts as requiring municipalities to assess many leased commercial properties at a substantial discount, often 50 percent below the actual sale prices of such properties?”
“Should the state Legislature enact proposed legislation that closes the dark store loopholes, which currently allow commercial retail properties to significantly reduce the assessed valuation and property tax of such properties, resulting in a substantial shift in taxes levied against other taxpaying entities, such as residential homeowners, and/or cuts in essential services provided by an affected municipality?”
This is dizzying, I’ll grant you. So let’s simplify.
Who is vociferously calling for these referendum questions to be approved? Many, many, many liberal tax and spend local officials across the state. As a result, many liberal local newspaper editorial boards are calling for the referendums calling for the loopholes to end to be approved.
Let’s simplify even more.
The Capital Times in Madison is one of the most liberal publications in America. They’re asking voters to approve the Madison referendum asking that the so-called “loophole” be closed.
Could there be any more clear signal but to vote the opposite the way the Capital Times is suggesting?
And yet Franklin Mayor Steve Olson continues to stand for holy pictures on this issue with the likes of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the likes I would have never thought possible since I moved into Franklin in 1992.
Here’s the deal.
The referendums will pass.
They will pass easily.
That will embolden folks like Olson who will then work and lobby aggressively against job creating businesses. And that means Franklin, which already has an abysmal business climate. Olson will waste time in this effort instead of actively and legitimately attempting to recruit businesses to economic development-starved Franklin.
But Olson and all his buddies can all pop the champagne corks, huddle together for victory photos, and start work Wednesday to further bash job-creating businesses.