The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is requesting more taxpayer funding so they can lobby to raise taxes on those same taxpayers who fund their advocacy work. The League sent a letter to local government officials across the state on June 22 requesting at least $1,200 dollars from each municipality to lobby on behalf of the “dark stores” legislation that seeks to impose a significant tax hike on Wisconsin employers. More information on that legislation can be found here.

Proponents of the Dark Stores tax hike bill claim that recent court decisions have limited the property tax base and shifted the burden onto homeowners. This is incorrect. As Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has pointed out, the property tax burden in Wisconsin actually shifted from residential to manufacturing and commercial properties by 2.8 percent between 2008 and 2017.

Rather than looking for backdoor mechanisms to raise taxes on business income through the property tax system, which the Dark Stores bill seeks to do, enacting rate-reducing tax reform would be a better use of time for Badger State lawmakers. There is already much work to be done to improve Wisconsin’s business tax climate. Wisconsin has the 13th worst state business tax climate, according to the Tax Foundation 2018 State Business Tax Climate Index. Imposition of the Dark Stores tax hike would only serve to make the state’s business tax climate even more hostile to employers.  

The debate over Dark Stores legislation will continue in Wisconsin and other states. Regardless of what one thinks of this proposal, using taxpayer dollars to lobby for tax hikes, as is currently happening in Wisconsin with this Dark Stores bill (and in other states on many other issues), is an indefensible use of hard-earned taxpayer income.