Referendums pass on dark store loophole, medicinal marijuana
By Kevin Boneske
BROWN COUNTY – County voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 6 fall general election supported a pair of advisory referendums by 3-to-1 margins.
Those advisory referendums are not legally binding, but urge lawmakers in Madison to change state law.
On Question No. 1, by a margin of 81,030 in favor and 26,998 against, county voters approved closing what’s known as dark store loophole, which relates to commercial retailers and manufacturers challenging the assessed value of their properties by claiming they are worth the same or close to the lower assessed value of similar but empty buildings.
The referendum’s wording stated, “Should the state legislature enact proposed legislation that closes the Dark Store loopholes, which currently allow retail properties to significantly reduce the assessed valuation and property tax of such properties, resulting in a substantial shift in taxes levied against other tax paying entities, such as residential home owners, and/or cuts in essential services provided by an affected municipality?”
Companies which challenged their assessments in court and won have been able to receive a refund with the affected municipalities having to make up the difference with that lost property tax revenue.
After the effort to eliminate the loophole didn’t pass in the last legislative session that ended this spring, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities (LWM) kept the issue in front of candidates running this year for governor and the state legislature with an issue advocacy campaign funded by itself and member municipalities, including several in Brown County.
Local municipalities have been dealing with corporations seeking to use the dark store loophole to reduce their property tax assessment.
For example, in the village of Howard, a difference of nearly $6.5 million exists between what the Woodman’s store at 2400 Duck Creek Parkway has been assessed for by the village and what the company claims it is worth.
Brown County was one of 17 counties in Wisconsin to hold an advisory referendum this fall on the dark store loophole.
On Question No. 2, the margin was 85,054 in favor and 27,481 against when county voters approved the following, “Should cannabis be legalized in Wisconsin for medicinal purposes, and regulated in the same manner as other prescription drugs?”
Supporters of the measure promoted medicinal use of marijuana as a pain relief alternative to using opioids with their potential side effects, such as becoming addictive.
Though the Brown County Board of Supervisors agreed in July to hold an advisory referendum this fall about legalizing medicinal marijuana in the state, the county board majority rejected holding another advisory referendum related to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.