Lawmakers reintroduce bill to close ‘dark store loophole’

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Lawmakers have re-introduced their plan to close the so-called “dark store loophole.’’

The bill, which began circulating for co-sponsors yesterday, comes a couple of weeks after Gov. Tony Evers pledged his budget will include a provision — as well as a “small amount of money” — to address the issue.

The language in the legislation, from lead Republican authors Rep. Rob Brooks and Sen. Duey Stroebel, combines the two bills from last session into one and includes some clarifications and “minor word tweaks,” Brooks told WisPolitics.com.

The legislation aims to prevent stores from basing their property value off of vacant properties or “dark stores,” which have lower property value and can be taxed at a lower rate. Last session, there were two separate bills on the topic: one that would have banned assessors from considering a vacant property in determining the value for a building with an active tenant; and another that would have overturned the 2008 state Supreme Court decision on property tax assessments for leased retail property.

Brooks yesterday said lawmakers decided to combine the bills “for the ease of conversation,” given the two played off each other.

The Saukville Republican acknowledged Evers’ plan to address the “dark store” issue in his budget, but Brooks said given that he doesn’t know what the guv’s plan will look like, “we wanted to put ours out there.”

“Obviously this has been a very heavily debated topic last session. I don’t think there’s any harm in putting out our proposal again,” he said, noting there’s “a very fine line to walk” on the issue.

The bill currently has nearly 20 Assembly and Senate co-sponsors, all Republican, including the two lead authors.

Brooks said while he’d given his GOP colleagues the chance to sign on to the bill first, he doesn’t think there would be any issue gaining Dem support.

“I’m not anticipating any problems there (with Democrats), because we’re not drastically changing the bills or anything,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Evers did not return a request for comment.

See the bill text here.

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