Cambensy opposes reappointment of ‘Dark Store’ loophole advocate to tax tribunal

Michigan News

MARQUETTE, Mich., August 14, 2020 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today that she would be reappointing Victoria Enyart to the Michigan Tax Tribunal for the next four years. Ms. Enyart, who was originally appointed to the Tribunal in 2008, has been instrumental in holding up efforts to abolish the ‘Dark Store’ tax loophole that allows big box retailers to artificially reduce their tax bill and strips local communities of the revenue they need to provide essential services. State Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette), who co-sponsored House Bill 4025 to eliminate this loophole, opposes Ms. Enyart’s reappointment and issued the following statement:

“The reappointment of Ms. Enyart to the Tax Tribunal by our governor is a disastrous decision for local units of government in Michigan. Her reappointment guarantees municipalities will lose big box tax appeals in the future, as Ms. Enyart decided the recent Menards v. City of Escanaba case.

“The Tax Tribunal is an extremely important entity as they make property tax policy for the state based on their decisions as appointed members. Fortunately, the governor’s appointment is subject to the affirmation of the Senate. I’m calling on my U.P. colleague, Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), to stop this foolish appointment from going forward as a member of the Advice and Consent Committee, and stand up for our cities, townships and counties who are reeling from the big box store tax revenue losses.

“One large Dark Store tax tribunal case can take tens of thousands of dollars from our cities, townships, counties, schools, libraries and special mileages. When they do, our small businesses and individuals either have to be taxed more, or local services like fire, police, teachers and library hours have to be cut. Enough is enough! It’s time for all elected officials to stand up and do the right thing and be held accountable.”

Local property assessors are charged with valuing a property to its “highest and best” use. But under the Tax Tribunal’s new method of valuation, a store can be valued as though it were vacant or “dark,” because stores argue that their store design cannot be used by similar stores and therefore cannot be easily resold. This practice of significantly lowering assessments — known as the “dark store” method — has been exceptionally harmful for Upper Peninsula communities. 

Representative Cambensy is asking local officials across the U.P. and the state to call the governor’s office and ask her to rescind this appointment immediately. She is also asking folks to contact Senator Ed McBroom’s office to ask for a no vote on her appointment in the Advice and Consent committee hearing.

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