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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Issue of the Week: Sold to the Lowest Bidder

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In yet another stunning example of his arrogance and disregard for the common good, Gov. Scott Walker has asked for unprecedented authority to sell off taxpayer-funded, publicly owned property without public oversight. The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee wisely added some oversight, but we don’t believe they went far enough to protect state assets.

In Walker’s original plan, he would be able to sell off University of Wisconsin properties, power plants, land and even highways. We’d like to say he would sell them to the highest bidder so that state taxpayers would get a healthy return on their investment. But Walker’s proposal would have allowed him to sell state assets without going through a publicly transparent bidding process. 

Walker’s fire sales would obviously open the door to corruption. Like his friend Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Walker wanted to limit public oversight so he can dole out sweetheart deals to his political contributors and wealthy friends in secret. If this were on the “up and up” then why not have transparency and proper oversight?

But, adding insult to injury, the sales wouldn’t even benefit those who own those assets, such as the students who paid student fees to construct campus buildings. Instead, the new revenue would go toward paying off the state’s debt—including the almost $1 billion Walker wants to put on the state’s credit card to expand unnecessary freeways and reward his road-building campaign donors.

Wisconsin’s current taxpayers, our parents and our grandparents all contributed to building up assets around the state. We all contributed to these landmarks because they are down payments on Wisconsin’s future and provide opportunities for our children. But Walker seems to have little respect for the sacrifices made to build the state’s properties. His vision of Wisconsin’s future is very different than the one shared by previous generations. In Walker’s Wisconsin, everything is for sale to the lowest bidder.

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