Many voters to see referendums on so-called 'dark store loophole'

The Wisconsin League of Municipalities holds a newx conference Oct. 17, 2018, to advocate an end to Wisconsin's "dark store loophole." (WLUK/Amber Luckett)

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WLUK) -- Voters in several parts of our area will soon have the chance to weigh in on Wisconsin's "Dark Store" taxing method.

It allows companies to assess property taxes based on the value of an empty store, rather than one in operation, even if the store is not actually empty.

On Wednesday, a signed letter by officials from more than 30 municipalities across the state was sent to Governor Scott Walker and his democratic challenger Tony Evers, asking them to commit to closing the dark store loophole as part of their new budget in 2019.

"We got really close this last legislative session. There were two bills introduced but in the end it never got scheduled for a vote even though we have lots of support," said Curt Witynski, the Deputy Director for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

If efforts to close the dark store tax approach are unsuccessful , Witynski says big box stores like Walgreen's and Menards will continue to take advantage of low tax strategies.

"The less in taxes that commercial properties have to pay the more everyone else has to pay and that's primarily homeowners and businesses," explained Witynski.

But according to the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group, that's not the case. In March of 2018 the association released a statement saying: "The property tax burden has actually shifted from homeowners to businesses over the last decade...and 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."

Link to full list of referendums: CLICK HERE

Voters in these Northeast Wisconsin counties will see advisory referendums for the "dark store loophole" on their ballots Nov. 6:

  • Brown County
  • Green Lake County
  • Manitowoc County
  • Outagamie County
  • Winnebago County

Statewide, these communities will have referendums on their ballots:

  • Barron County
  • Dane County
  • Grant County
  • Jefferson County
  • Kenosha County
  • Monroe County
  • Portage County
  • Rock County
  • Vernon County
  • Walworth County
  • Washburn County
  • Washington County
  • City of Glendale
  • City of Kenosha
  • City of Merrill
  • City of Sun Prairie
  • Village of DeForest
  • Village of West Milwaukee
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