Candidates visiting the Kenosha News editorial board say there’s a good deal of awareness among residents that the “dark store” tax loophole must be closed.
That’s good news, and there might even be more awareness now after an impressive group of state and local elected officials came together last week to discuss the importance of approving a countywide referendum on Nov. 6 calling for the Legislature to close the loophole.
Using the “dark stores” loophole, large retailers have successfully challenged municipalities’ property-tax assessments in attempts to ensure those assessments are calculated by taking into account the value of closed stores rather than of comparable businesses.
How we ended up with a non-binding referendum is of interest.
There was bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly for bills that would close the loophole, but Republican legislative leaders refused to allow them to come up for a vote during the session.
They wanted more time to study the issue and assigned a legislative study commission to undertake that task over the summer.
Not even 80 legislative sponsors could get the bills to the floor. And not even comments by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that he favors closing the loophole could get the moving forward.
Legislative leaders answering to no one made that decision, leaving rank-and-file members to go around the state and advocate for using referendums to send a message.
Around here homeowners are going to pay if the loophole isn’t closed.
Assessors in Kenosha County think property tax bills will increase by 17 percent in Pleasant Prairie, 9 percent in Kenosha and 8 percent in Somers.
“Without this bill passing in the state legislature it will shift the shaft to everybody who pays property taxes except for those who try to get through this loophole,” said County Executive Jim Kreuser.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said, if the loophole is not closed, owners of the average-valued home in the city would see a $350 increase in their property taxes.
— Kenosha News