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WI Gov Walker Aims to Sell Off Highways, Prisons, and University Buildings Under 'No-Bid' Contracts

Walker-signing

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s latest plan to lower his state’s debt revolves around selling off the state’s universities, highways and prisons despite the potential long-term drawbacks.  Among the targets are buildings originally paid for by student fees and donations throughout the University of Wisconsin school system. This includes student unions.

The State Building Commission will make the final call about which buildings to purge, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal.

University officials are questioning the tactics and labeling them as haphazard.  Sheldon Lubar, a prolific university donor who formerly served on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, questioned Walker’s proposal:

“I think it’s foolish, mindless and will have a very chilling effect on fundraising.”

He added, “I really don’t think [Walker] thought this through and understands the negative impact this would have on the university.”

The academic buildings are just an arm in Walker’s dubious game of Operation.  The State Building Commission will have the authority to sell off key components of the state’s infrastructure.  If left unchecked, the group could orchestrate a privatization bonanza, according Mint Press News:

One of the most hotly debated provisions would allow the Building Commission to sell the state’s heating, cooling and power plants. Wisconsin currently owns 33 facilities, most of which provide steam and chilled water to UW campuses, prisons, health institutions and veterans homes.

The plan could actually lead to higher day-to-day costs — such as buying power and steam to heat prisons and dorms — after it sells the properties.

If his gubernatorial tenure thus far is any indication, Walker’s plan will meet strong opposition.  Privatization has the chance at eliciting cross-aisle consternation from Democrats and Republicans alike. It doesn’t take political affiliation to understand the consequences of selling off assets for short-term gain. To boot, Walker wants to go the “no-bid” contract route to avoid scrutiny during the process. This approach was not well-received when Walker previously tried to unload power plants this way.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said she was surprised the proposal would allow the sale of highways and prisons and believed legislators would change it to provide more legislative oversight.

“I’m very reluctant to give up any authority that the Legislature currently has,” Darling said.

The Republican-controlled committee is to take up the plan Tuesday. Whatever it does will be incorporated into the state budget that is scheduled to go before the Legislature next month. Walker will then have a chance to approve it, reject it or rewrite it using his veto powers.

“There’ll probably be a lot of healthy debate and be some kind of compromise,” Darling said of Walker’s proposal.

Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), a member of the committee, said he opposed the plan.

“I don’t think we should be rushing to have a fire sale on state property with no bid-contracts,” Richards said. “That is not good long-term stewardship of state property.”

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