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View from around the state: Voters need to send a message through ‘dark store’ referendum

— From the Kenosha News

Candidates visiting the Kenosha News editorial board say there’s heightened awareness among residents that the “dark store” tax loophole must be closed in Madison.

That’s good news, and there might even be more awareness now after an impressive gathering of state and local elected officials last week discussed the importance of approving a Nov. 6 countywide referendum that calls for the Legislature to close the loophole.

Using the “dark stores’ loophole, large retailers have successfully challenged municipalities to ensure their property tax assessments are based on the value of closed stores rather than on 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 session.

They wanted more time to study the issue and formed a legislative study commission over the summer.

Not even 80 co-sponsors could get the bills to the floor. And not even comments by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that he favors closing the loophole could move them.

Legislative leaders answering to no one made that decision, leaving rank-and-file members to go around the state and talk up referendums to send a message.

Around here homeowners are going to pay if the loophole isn’t closed.

Assessors in Kenosha County anticipate 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, it will amount to a $350 increase on an average city home.

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