Lawmakers to unveil bill targeting big box stores

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Big box stores in Wisconsin are being targeted in a pair of Republican-backed bills circulating in the state Legislature.

The bills being unveiled Wednesday set up a fight pitting retail giants like Menards, Lowe's and ShopKo against Wisconsin cities and villages. The issue is how the value of the operating stores is determined for property taxes.

The stores have been successfully arguing that their value should be based on the underlying real estate, so nearby empty big box stores can be taken into account. But municipalities call that a dark-store loophole that artificially lowers the value of the operating retail stores, shifting the property tax burden to smaller retailers and homeowners.

Big box stores have filed numerous lawsuits across Wisconsin challenging property tax assessments.

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