Monday, October 30, 2006

Picking Your Taxpayer Battles

So paper and other companies across the state are flocking to a 53 year old law that evidently allows them to exempt their properties from property taxes.

The law in question states that "all property purchased or constructed as a waste treatment facility used for the treatment of industrial wastes . . . for the purpose of abating or eliminating pollution of surface waters, the air or waters of the state" are exempt from property taxes.

This means paper companies?

Apparently an attorney successfully argued that point in front of a Dane County Circuit Court last year, which has caused a flood of exemption applications for the industry. And other businesses are also trying to get in on the action, including a motor oil recycling company, a chemical company, and a food company.

Of course, when businesses become exempt from property taxes, that increases property taxes for everyone else in the community unless the community is able to withstand a decrease in the amount of public revenue available to it.

Bad news, right?

Well, based on the reaction of the state after it lost the exemption case in court last year, it doesn't seem like the courtroom is going to be the place to make the situation right again.

So that means the onus falls on the legislature.

But according to the Journal Sentinel, state Rep. Dean R. Kaufert (R-Neenah) "predicted the Legislature will consider changing the law when it meets next year."

Just consider it?

And later in the article, Kaufert -- who's co-chair of the powerful Joint Committee on Finance -- said that if negotiations between the companies granted exemptions and the communities affected don't pan out, the legislature is going to need to choose between the two "and we will probably choose the taxpayers. . . . We don't want to be put in that situation."

The legislature will probably choose the taxpayers? Huh?

And how awful that the GOP-controlled state legislature would be put in the position of actually needing to defend citizen taxpayers. But, wait, isn't that the state GOP's big thing, protecting "the taxpayer"?

I guess it all depends on who they're up against.

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