Wisconsin in focus: Hotel, apartment owners contest whopping increases in property values

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Posted: Jun 19, 2017 11:30 AM

Wisconsin State Journal: Hotel, apartment owners contest whopping increases in property values

Madison hotel and apartment owners are contesting huge spikes in property values this year — many increases are over 100 percent — but city officials say properties were undervalued and increases are appropriate and warranted.

Ahead lies a potentially lengthy appeal process and court fights with results deciding tens of millions of dollars in property value, millions in property taxes, and the balance of tax burden between commercial and residential property owners.

The Madison Concourse, 1 W. Dayton St., the city’s biggest hotel, saw the largest dollar jump among hotels, a whopping $41.7 million, or 215 percent increase, to $61 million. The Hub Madison apartments, 437 N. Frances St., leaped $64 million, or 123 percent, to $115.9 million, the highest among apartment buildings.

The big increases surprised hoteliers and are “pretty unreasonable,” said Charlie Eggen, president of the Greater Madison Hotel & Lodging Association.

WISC 3: Wisconsin attorney general reveals opioid investigation

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel has taken the unusual step of revealing the state Department of Justice is investigating opioid manufacturers.

Schimel announced last week that he and a group of attorneys general from other states have been looking into drug companies’ opioid marketing practices to see if any have engaged in illegal activity.

The investigation could conceivably lead to a multi-state lawsuit against the companies. A number of states already have sued drug manufacturers, accusing them of misrepresenting the risk of prescription opioids and fueling addictions.

Rarely does Schimel or any DOJ official acknowledge the existence of an investigation.

Wisconsin State Journal: Local officials mull using Metro Transit buses for texting while driving surveillance campaign

Dane County and Madison officials are looking to collaborate on a plan that would let law enforcement use Metro Transit buses for a distracted driving campaign, but concerns remain about the idea’s appropriateness.

A contract making its way through the Madison governmental process would allow Dane County Sheriff’s Office deputies to ride on Metro Transit buses during off-peak hours as part of an effort to reduce texting while driving. Contingent on a federal grant, the plan calls for several plain-clothed deputies to ride through crash hot spots on each bus, giving them the ability to search for distracted drivers from a higher vantage point, said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. R.J. Lurquin.

Deputies would be the only passengers on the buses and would be in communication with uniformed deputies or surrounding police departments to notify them of someone texting and driving or using a cellphone in a work zone, Lurquin said.

“We’re not necessarily looking to issue citations to everyone we make contact with,” he said. “We want people to be aware of the law and just worry about driving and texting later.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Summer vacation? Many Americans say they can’t afford it

Forget frequent flier miles, last-minute getaways and even road trips. Nearly half of Americans say they won’t be taking a vacation this summer, mostly because they can’t afford it, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The new AP-NORC survey, conducted in May, said 43% of Americans won’t be taking a summer vacation. The top reason for skipping a trip was the cost, cited by 49% of non-vacationers. Another 11% said they can’t take the time off from work, while 3% said they don’t like to be away from work.

About half of Americans living in households making less than $50,000 a year don’t plan to take any summer vacation this year, and they’re especially likely to cite costs as a reason.

And if your employer gives you paid vacation days, consider yourself lucky: Forty-one percent of those surveyed who work full or part time said they do not get any paid time off from their employers to use for vacation. Younger and lower-income workers are especially likely to not get any paid time off.