Assembly Speaker Robin Vos Gives Grim Assessment for Several Hot-Button Bills

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in an Associated Press interview Wednesday shot down the chances of passing several bills backed by fellow Republicans on hot-button issues.

The Legislature is set to return to work sometime in January but probably will only meet a handful of days. That gives lawmakers little time to act on bills left over from 2017 or any new proposals.

He also said a bill designed to force mega-retailers such as Menards, Lowe’s and ShopKo to pay more in property taxes is unlikely to pass.

Vos said he had “serious concerns” with the measure that’s won bipartisan support and the backing of communities across the state. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state chamber of commerce, has been against the measure, saying it will hurt the economy by unfairly raising taxes on businesses.

The bill is designed to close the so-called “dark store” loophole and increase how much mega-retailers pay local communities in property taxes.

A string of court rulings in Wisconsin and across the Midwest have helped the retail giants lower the value placed on their stores for levying property taxes. The retailers have successfully challenged their tax assessments by arguing they are overtaxed and should pay the same rate as a store that is closed and vacant.

Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said he had hoped the bill would pass and cited it in a separate interview as one where Democrats and Republicans could work together.

But Vos said it appeared doomed.

“I worry about raising taxes on anybody, if they’re a business owner or a homeowner,” Vos said.

Another measure Vos said was going nowhere was a bill that would add a fee schedule for medical care to Wisconsin’s workers compensation law. Including a fee schedule has been a divisive issue, pitting the state’s business community that support it against health care groups including the Wisconsin Medical Society and Hospital Association that oppose it.

“Until we have some kind of a consensus, or there’s an outcry from every day business people, it just seems the issue languishes,” Vos said.