Some 11 months after receiving a request for an opinion on a controversial Scott Walker budget provision that would allow for the sale of hundreds of acres of Wisconsin farm and forest land to foreign special interests, Tea Party Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is releasing an opinion on his way out of office that says foreigners can buy land in Wisconsin.
Scott Walker proposed in his budget last year changes to state law to allow foreign companies and individuals to buy large tracts of land, like farms, that are over 640 acres in size. Republicans and Democrats alike voiced concerns, and the proposal was deleted by the Joint Finance Committee. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation also opposed the changes.
The proposal to sell off Wisconsin farmland to foreign special interests wasn’t the only controversial real estate change in Walker’s budget; a provision in the budget that did pass allows the Walker administration to sell off state assets without a competitive bidding process. Included for sale are telecommunications towers and related infrastructure around the state, administrative buildings in Madison and Milwaukee, and the Northern Wisconsin Center in Chippewa Falls. Also for sale is land surrounding the state Department of Transportation building that has been described as prime commercial real estate — several top Walker donors are finalists for the $197 million project.
“Scott Walker doesn’t seem to care about Wisconsin’s conservation heritage or the family farms that are the lifeblood of our rural communities — he just wants to sell our state’s richest assets to the highest bidder,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said Monday. “As Walker continues to ignore Wisconsin while he runs for president we can only expect to see more short-sighted giveaways, like this plan to turn over our precious forest and farmland to foreign special interests.”