Friday, July 15, 2016
Not too long ago, the Janesville Gazette posted an exclusive article about how some Janesville area big box retailers and other businesses are putting the squeeze on Janesville taxpayers by using a "dark store" argument to win substantially lower property tax bills.
The Gazette identified eight businesses that applied for lower tax assessments against the city in recent years: Blain Supply, Farm & Fleet, Target, U.S. Bank, Menards, Sears, Rosebud Partners (for Wildwood Theaters) and Jade Taco (for Taco John's). Some received settlements while others won lower property assessed values, refunds or both.
The Gazette followed up with an editorial on the story where they concluded that absent changes in state law, and as lower assessments and settlements continue, homeowners should expect to pick up bigger shares of the tax burden. They are absolutely correct in that summation.
But who knew that at the time of their story in March, the Gazette's parent label, Bliss Communications, hired a tax lawyer to, as lawyers are described in their editorial about the retailers, to "prey on the city" by filing an objection to their own property tax?
According to a city memorandum (File Resolution No. 2016-1333) from this week's council meeting, Bliss Communications lawyered a "settlement" with the state by having $576,000 of assessed value knocked off its property on Parker Drive. The difference in value from the previous assessment translates to a $30,000 lower annual tax bill for the media company.
Bliss also had the assessed value for their facility on Wuthering Hills lowered by $709,500. That tax bill will be lowered by $35,000 for a combined difference of about $65,000 less annually for local taxing jurisdictions. That means Janesville schools, the county and city combined must now refund Bliss that amount for their last tax bill and use those new lowered assessed values as the current baseline moving forward.
It remains unclear which argument Bliss Com used to win those lowered assessments. The state apparently agreed to a middle number between the low assessment Bliss demanded and current assessed values, rather than performing a live objective re-assessment.
As it turns out, the newspaper that endorsed "conservative" rock stars Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson, yet insists Janesville residents should support and accept higher tax obligations, recommended every local tax increase proposal and criticized area businesses for hiring lawyers to lower their property tax bills ...was a member of the "taxed too much already" club all along.
In the meantime, homeowners and small businesses get stuck with the tab. And some people wonder why so many think the entire system is rigged.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:04 AM
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
It's like, "Hey Janesville taxpayers, now that it's been more than a month since we (Forward Janesville) locked up all downtown assessed tax revenue growth for the next 27 years with a TIF carve-out for ourselves, it's okay to talk about your city's budget deficit again. Permission granted. Now you can figure out amongst yourselves how you're going to balance future budgets. You can raise taxes and fees till you're blue in the face. But don't count on downtown's growth dollars. It's not called ARISE for nothing. Thanks suckers! LOL"
As you probably know, this blog was the only media source in Rock County (as is usually the case) to recall Janesville's $800,000 projected budget deficit during the administration's run up to locking the city's most promising area for future assessed values out from general fund obligations. Other media sources including social media forums and the Janesville Gazette made sure to squash any correlation between the two. It's like Janesville's projected budget deficit fell off a cliff. It didn't serve their purpose at the time, but now it does. That's how the rigged establishment works.
I also wrote that residents should expect council members to begin raising every tax and fee they legally can soon after approving the TIF District to make up for the shifted revenue and as predicted, this week the council gave a thumbs up to raising dozens of city fees.
Members of the public who spoke up at the meeting in favor of raising the fees - zero.
Some taxpayers believe growth in active TIF Districts counts toward helping increase the area's equalized values, thereby adding to the taxable base of a community each year to help pay the bills. That's totally wrong. Their growth does not add anything until the TIF District expires.
Remember, the state froze property tax levies and limited increases in taxation to new growth. Some people are happy with that cap and cut program, wrongly thinking their property taxes cannot go up, but don't forget assessed values above the initial baseline in TIF Districts ARE NOT counted. Not to sound redundant, THAT means TIF Districts add zero new dollars to the general fund.
Here's the thing. Not all TIF Districts are created equal. It's becoming increasingly rare, but some TIFs do actually work as intended. But others, like Janesville's downtown TIF District, are platforms designed to confiscate tax revenue for the special interest projects of city hall insiders like Forward Janesville.
So creating new or more TIF Districts is the last thing local governments in Wisconsin should consider if they are in need of instant tax revenue for daily operations. Officials should run away from TIFs like they're the plague.
Sadly in Janesville, it has become where the only districts receiving full representation and administrative consideration are TIF Districts. As you are probably aware of, Janesville does not have electoral districts (wards) democratically represented in city government. It's a captured special interest crony capital "at-large" style of government with an appointed administrator hired by a committee selected by area elites. In other words, it's run like Hazzard County - a total farce.
So let's recap quickly on recent events:
1. Mark Freitag, the city manager, warned that the next city budget will begin with a $800,000 deficit and asked for immediate public discussions to resolve the issue.
2. That led the Janesville Gazette and other media forums to quickly black out the manager’s deficit warning for five months. Why? Because they have an agenda to ram through first.
3. On cue, while ignoring the projected deficit, the city administration proposed and the council approved a TIF District for downtown that will shift an estimated average of $1 million of additional revenue a year away from the General Fund – for the next 27 years.
4. Large commercial properties and businesses are challenging their property tax assessments and winning much lower assessments and refunds from the city in the tens of thousands of dollars each.
5. Less than two months after approving the downtown TIF, the Janesville city council turns to raising a plethora of city fees – many by 50% to 100%.
6. After the TIF approval, the city's projected deficit is now back in open discussion, but it's now reaching $950,000. City officials continue to blame the deficit on city employee raises and the state for tying additional budget growth to growth in assessed value. Reminder: Growth in TIF Districts does not count.
7. Many homeowners are under the mistaken impression that their property taxes cannot go up substantially because of the state cap on levies.
8. With commercial assessed values declining and future assessed growth quarantined in TIF’s – the people left holding the bag and a much larger share of paying for general fund operations are the residential property owners.
So predictable. You Can Set Your Clock To It.
RNR - Janesville Downtown TIF District Won't Boost Property Value Much. But It Will Confiscate It.
RNR - TIF Districts: A Generation Of Wealth Confiscation And Broken Memes
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:17 PM
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Monday, July 11, 2016
On Rock County Office Candidates:
✦ Amazing how the Janesville Gazette complains when incumbents face no challengers and again complain when there's too many candidates. Why all the hoopla?
✦ It's that special time again to consider dismantling elective county offices in Rock and turn them all into appointments by the local oligarchy. Why? Because too many Democrats are campaigning for those jobs.
✦ Watch for the League of Women Voters to chime in with their editorial on why voters should surrender their right to vote for administrative offices. They prefer government bureaucrats and hand-picked committees chosen by the local oligarchy to make those hiring decisions.
✦ Oh my God! Oh my God! Some candidates for county offices are receiving endorsements ...from local unions! Partisans! Don't they understand the Janesville Gazette does not endorse during primaries and only the newspaper is permitted to endorse candidates anyways? Sheesh.
✦ Why isn't the Rock County Executive office elective? When did the area's elite steal that one from the people?
On Political Yard Signs In Janesville:
✦ Saw a few yards staked with signs for candidates from both parties. It's nice to think bipartisanship still exists, but the August election is a partisan primary. You can't vote a Republican for Congress AND a Democrat for Rock County Deeds on the same ballot. Save your bipartisanship for November.
On Not Changing Janesville City Council primary elections:
✦ Local Newspaper headline, "Janesville City Council keeps right to rule on primary elections." It should have been, "Janesville City Council incumbents keep advantage to rule on their own primary elections." There. That's better. And more accurate.
✦ So three Janesville council members said primaries give new city council candidates little time to introduce themselves and their ideas. They're right. But they should have had the courage of their convictions and propose eliminating all council primaries regardless the number of candidates. It's an at-large system anyways where the top 3 or 4 vote getters win. Amazing how power corrupts.
On Donald Trump:
✦ Say what you will about about Donald Trump, but his authentic racism, bigotry and xenophobia helped expose the dishonest authenticity of the entire republican presidential field.
✦ Trump is a "racial healer" in the same way Scott Walker is a "pro-labor progressive."
✦ If Trump wins, his presidency would be such a disaster he might not be able to finish the term.
On Scott Walker Speaking At Trump's Convention:
✦ Scott Walker will be a speaker at the RNC Trump convention? Walker does nothing unless there's something in it for him. So, what office did Trump promise him? Secretary of Labor?
✦ Scott Walker is positioning himself for the presidency in 2020 or 2024? I wouldn't bet on it. Remember earlier, Trump exposed Walker as just another poser, but said he "likes" him. Walker wants badly out of Wisconsin, but only if he can land a secure unaccountable job. Trump might now feel he owes Walker a cabinet post. Plus, America has seen enough of the balding cross-eyed Walker antique to ever elect him outright - nothing to do with his age.
✦ Suddenly, Rock County farmland is prized enough to protest for? Where was everybody when Janesville was working on its pro-sprawl Comprehensive Growth Plan? I recall one or two farmers and the area's courageous environmentalist showing up to speak in opposition at the public hearing. That was it.
✦ Get a load of this: TransCanada wants $15 billion from U.S. for not building pipeline.
✦ Real farmers and landowners concerned about a railroad on their land better start asking politicians in Wisconsin where they stand on a GOP proposal to sue businesses for 3X damages that don't allow firearms if customers are injured or killed. You don't think they're related? Think again. It's a spin-off from TPP language that allows corporations and countries to sue another for lost profits when they are prevented from utilizing the private property of others for their market gains. There's more to come. Vote out all ALEC flacks. Consider yourself warned.
On Rep. Paul Ryan's Border Fence Position:
✦ Sent 'anonymously.'
Just finished a press conference in front of the border fence protecting Paul Ryan's mansion. pic.twitter.com/OhC9xqwPFS— Paul Nehlen (@pnehlen) July 9, 2016
On First Congressional District House Race:
✦ A recent poll (by P.M.I.) shows that with one month remaining before Wisconsin’s August 9th vote, Paul Ryan holds a lead of 11 points over his primary challenger, Paul Nehlen. If anything it shows a net gain for Nehlen and that his campaign is starting to move the needle at just the right time. Nehlenmentum! But it also alludes to a large bloc of voters (25%) hedging away from Ryan and towards Rock The First!
✦ Conventional thinking has Paul Ryan crushing his primary challenger and any Democrat he faces in the General. If that holds and the numbers are the same old story, I will never help Democrats or activist groups with any opposition issue campaigns, emailers, protests or petitions again if they refuse to step up to defeat him when they have their best chance. At the very least, they will appear disingenuous in all their future efforts.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:06 AM
Monday, July 04, 2016
noun US informal
a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches.
It's not that Scott Walker is deliberately, methodically playing rope-a-dope. It's just that he discovered he can back into it, find a comfortable sweet spot and watch his political opponents flail themselves into providing him another victory to win his third term.
Now you might be asking yourself, what is this blogger writing about?
It begins with this. It's about a large disenfranchised constituency that had their wages and benefits deleveraged by outsourcing and through state legislation, voting hours cut, local control taken away and electoral districts gerrymandered - just for starters.
In general, they (we) have had our teeth kicked in. All the while a favored donor-class constituency picked up massive income tax cuts and tax credits including expanded lobby access into the halls of state government. So now, after all of those massive shifts in wealth transfer and political power, the "leaders" of the downtrodden are now joining in with their cruel masters begging Walker into raising their taxes and fees to pay for roads. Honest.
OK, you might be thinking, "What's wrong with that? Walker caused it, and the state's roads and infrastructure are crumbling right before our very eyes." True, but you have to put several things into proper perspective to understand where I'm coming from on this.
First, Scott Walker is a Norquist Tax Pledge signer. That overrides everything.
In a nutshell, Norquist pledgers have relinquished their constitutional fiduciary responsibility and handed it over to Grover Norquist. That means any new or increased taxes are prohibited by his pledgers and any new spending requests can be implemented so long as they are offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"Raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees without an equal or greater reduction in taxes elsewhere is not an option, and it would throw a wet blanket on our growing economy," Walker wrote.
See what I mean?
The idea is to give an effect of a budget neutral - tax neutral expenditure. Obviously, it's a huge campaign talking point for republicans. See mom? No new taxes.
So what does Gov. Grover Norquist allow? Well, borrowing is perfectly OK with Norquist. Because of that, Walker has been willing to borrow to keep road expansions on schedule over the past few years. But in his latest latest memo to WisDOT, he asked the department to keep new bonding levels low for the next budget.
Many believe, including myself, that Norquist's pledge is the primary driver responsible for most of America's $20 trillion debt note. But borrowing leads to increased debt no matter how noble the cause or low the interest rates, so many "conservatives" like Wisconsin republicans including Walker don't want to give their political opponents another talking point that can be used against them.
So what's left? "Conservatives" like to talk about cuts in spending, except Walker boasts about spending more on roads than his predecessor and his state budgets grew by 15% over the past five years despite his claim of taking less. So there's that.
Then there is the ever politically phony "savings" stunt. Oh boy. When it comes to savings on roads, State Sen. Duey Stroebel said he wants a full repeal of the state's prevailing wage law because it means reducing costs. Might as well bring in Chinese laborers on Paul Ryan's work visa plan too. Hey, why not?
In truth, Stroebel's idea of savings on roads means a few more kicks to the teeth for Wisconsin laborers.
Speaking of Duey Stroebel, he also takes Walker's side on Wisconsin's roads being not all that bad as part of his personal “No New Funding” campaign for Wisconsin’s crumbling infrastructure. No new funding really means no new taxes to an ideologue like Stroebel. Why? Because Stroebel is a Norquist Tax pledge signer just like Walker. It's a small world, huh?
That leaves me with the last suspect. The referendum. It's the only thing left. Grover Norquist is OK with referendums because he has nothing to hold hostage against citizen voters for a ransom and he can't blame his pledge signers for the referendum's result.
However, because of the rising anti-tax fervor fueled over the years in part by Norquist himself, places like Janesville Wisconsin and Michigan voters have both rightly rejected new tax referendums to pay for roads. So the expectation for a statewide referendum in Wisconsin to succeed is very low.
Except in Wisconsin, the neo-liberal media establishment (that includes certain blogs) have been working 24/7 lately to convince readers about the road lobby reports and rankings including our state's pay-ability among peers and apparent willingness to absorb higher tax obligations for roads. According to some reports, all sides want higher taxes.
The thing is; they know they will not convince Walker. Even WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb has given up and Walker holds veto power over anything legislators might propose ...so who are they working on?
Walker of course would likely not recommend a state referendum, but he would welcome the voters decision regardless. If rejected, he could say he was right all along.
If approved, he could say "...after all the humiliation and resentment I put you through, including in-your-face income inquality tax cuts and credits for my wealthiest donor-class supporters (to the tune of $736 million over five years) while slashing and burning everything you ever stood for leaves you begging me for more spending and willingly approve higher taxes onto yourselves ...I'd say it's working and I kept my promise."
Every politicians dream. Walker could be governor of Wisconsin for life.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 3:55 PM