Evers to Propose Ending “Dark Store” Loophole Backed by WMC

February 5, 2019

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers says he wants to close a loophole that big box stores and other companies use to lower their tax assessment and force homeowners to pay higher property taxes.

Bipartisan bills last session to get rid of the loophole were opposed by the state largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), and GOP legislative leaders.

The loophole was created by a 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that allows the value of operating stores to be based on the sharply lower tax assessments of vacant big-box stores. It decreases tax revenues for local communities, which must cut services or increase taxes on homeowners and renters.

Walgreens, Menards, Target, Lowe’s, and others have successfully challenged and slashed their local property tax assessments numerous times throughout the state in recent years, using the “dark store” loophole.

WMC secretly raised and spent about $25.2 million between January 2010 and December 2018 on outside electioneering activities in legislative and statewide races to support conservative and Republican candidates.

Evers said he would include the plan to close the loophole in his proposed 2019-2021 state budget that will likely be introduced later this month and then considered and amended by the GOP-controlled legislature in the coming months.