Update: Listen to a WJR radio show interview on this Dark Stores topic between the League’s Chris Hackbarth and WJR’s Frank Beckman. Be sure to listen to the subsequent interview between Beckman and State Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica. (You’ll have to scroll down the page a bit and look under November 5).
The House Tax Policy committee met Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, to begin hearing testimony on the big box retail/dark store tax appeal issue. The committee hearing was designed to provide an overview of the issue for the committee members, allowing assessing experts and local government officials to explain the issue and the impact of these appeals all around the state. The committee room was filled to capacity, with many individuals forced to stand throughout the hearing.
Experts from the Michigan Assessors Association and the International Association of Assessing Officers described the process and analysis that goes into valuing property. They were followed by officials from Marquette and Chippewa County who testified about the impact that recent Michigan Tax Tribunal appeal decisions have had on their communities and the services they provide. The committee also heard about the manipulation of property values that big box retailers are perpetrating through the placement of negative use deed restrictions to devalue buildings that they vacate and then point to later on as support for lowering their assessments.
As the time for the hearing started to run short, the committee heard from the Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and their tax attorneys from Honigman Miller explain how they believe that no law change is needed. Through materials MRA has been providing legislators, they state that the problem is really about retailers being over-assessed by local governments as those local governments attempt to make up for lost revenue sharing and increased costs from “Cadillac” retiree healthcare plans. The Retailers assert that “Local governments are now encouraging assessors to overstep their boundaries and assess business property at a higher rate in order to pay for their government operations and benefits without harming communities.”
MML, MAC, MTA and numerous other organizations and local officials were not able to testify before the committee hearing ended, but the chair recognized the need to continue the discussion and is planning an additional hearing in early December where we will get a chance to address the committee and advocate for a legislative fix. The League coordinated with more than a dozen other organizations to submit a joint letter to the committee asking that they engage in enacting a solution. Along with organizing this coalition, the League is pursuing an aggressive public relations campaign to bring attention to this important issue through radio, television and print media. We urge your assistance with this effort by contacting your Senator and Representative to explain to them the importance of addressing these dark store appeals and restoring a fair and proper valuation system.
Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and [email protected].