Dane County Advisory Referenda

Question 1

Should the state legislature protect residential property taxpayers by preventing commercial and manufacturing property owners from using tax loopholes to shift the tax burden to homeowners?

___ Yes   ___ No

LWVDC Analysis

This is an advisory referendum to inform state legislators about the opinion of Dane County residents. It is generally called the “dark store” referendum. You can view the Dane County Board resolution placing this item on the November ballot here.

The “Dark Store Theory” is an appraisal method which asserts that a currently operating big box store should be valued based solely on the sales of similar sized businesses that have recently sold. Current sales of big box stores are predominantly stores that are vacant and closed (aka “dark stores”) rather than currently operating ones. In the Midwest, chain stores such as Lowe’s, Best Buy and Menard’s are pursuing appeals of their property assessments using the dark store theory. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce opposes such referenda, asserting that “local governments have illegally over-assessed businesses” and that referenda like these are “a tool for tax and spend government officials to raise revenue.”

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities supports laws that would forbid the “Dark Store strategy.” LWM says “A carefully-orchestrated wave of 100s of lawsuits in Wisconsin is forcing assessors to slash the market value of thriving national retail stores, shifting their tax burden to local mom and pop shops and to their home-owning customers.”

An academic paper on this controversy can be found here.

A Yes vote advises the Wisconsin legislature that you support a law change to prevent assessors from calculating active stores’ property values by comparing them to dark (closed) stores. A No vote advises the legislature that you are satisfied with current law about assessing box store values.

Question 2

Should marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?

___ Yes   ___ No

LWVDC Analysis

This is an advisory referendum to inform state legislators of the opinion of Dane County voters.

The resolution that put the question on the November ballot (which you can read here) states that “legalizing and taxing marijuana could significantly increase state and local revenue, and. . . African Americans are disproportionally arrested for marijuana use and possession, continuing a pattern of racially biased justice system outcomes. . .and. . .marijuana prohibition makes product quality control and sales regulation impossible, leaving marijuana sellers free to target children. . .and peddle adulterated products.”

The Pew Research Center in 2015 examined the views of U.S. residents who oppose legalizing marijuana. 43% of opponents believed that marijuana hurts society and is bad for individuals; 30% of opponents indicated that marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug; and 11% of opponents stated a concern that marijuana is a gateway drug to other illegal substances.

The news website Vox in August published an examination of marijuana legalization nationally, including arguments for and against. You can read it here.

A Yes vote advises the Wisconsin legislature that you support changes to Wisconsin law to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana use by adults. A No vote advises the legislature that you do not want Wisconsin to tax and regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.