LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - State Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) received the 2017 County Advocate Award from the Michigan Association of Counties at its legislative reception on Tuesday, March 28. Kivela was honored for his support of rural counties and local governments, and for his work on “dark store” legislation.
“I am honored to receive this award, as I have worked to bring fairness not only to the local counties in my district but for all rural counties in Michigan,” said Kivela. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to try to end the “dark stores” loophole that the Michigan Tax Tribunal is using. Local governments, including counties, are ground zero for the effects of lost revenue, and I will continue to try to fix this problem.”
“Rep. Kivela’s dogged support for reforming the Michigan Tax Tribunal to close the dark stores loophole helped propel a 97-11 favorable vote in the House, setting the stage for more progress this year,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “He is a strong voice for local government and well-deserving of this honor.”
Kivela helped win support in the House in 2016 for House Bill 5578, which would have closed a tax loophole created by court decisions dealing with dark stores. Big-box stores have successfully argued that the value of their stores should be compared to the value of older closed and vacant stores — which were worth far less than what it cost to build a newer store — so they should pay less in taxes on the newer store. That argument has allowed them to win huge tax refunds that have been devastating to state and local government budgets. HB 5578 would have addressed this by requiring the Michigan Tax Tribunal to make its own independent determination when issuing a decision in a commercial property dispute case. The bill passed the House in 2016 by a vote of 97-11, but it never came out of committee in the Senate. The bill has been reintroduced this year, and Kivela is again a co-sponsor.
"I am very happy to see that Representative Kivela has been honored with this award from MAC," said Jerry Doucette, Alger County Board Chairman and former President of MAC. "Every time we need assistance we can count on Rep. Kivela doing everything in his power to help. It is a pleasure to know we have a fighter on our side in Lansing."