Me: I think it’s important to look at the original intent of elected officials proposed changes to law. It says everything about that person.
That’s why Scott Walker’s jaw dropping proposal to sell off state land to foreign countries is so outrageous. His broad power to sell Wisconsin property to foreign countries, without adding a number of important exemptions, should have conservatives screaming bloody murder. But they're not. Where’s all their defensive talk about U.S. sovereignty? What problem is this supposed to fix?
And who’s idea was it to sell off Wisconsin?
CapTimes-Jessica VanEgeren: Wisconsin Realtor's look to be next in line to benefit from Gov. Scott Walker’s “Wisconsin is open for business” vow. Thomas Larson with the Wisconsin Realtors Association, says the organization was made aware of the land-purchasing limitations in state law and “let the governor and other legislators know about it.” “We want to encourage people to buy property,” Larson says. “It seemed strange to us that we would have a provision in state law that prevents land ownership.”
Is it so strange to try and prevent becoming a “global land grabbing casino?”
Full disclosure, I was a part of this rabidly right wing association as a licensed real estate agent.
Getting back to the original intent of the law, Walker wants to sell state land to “nonresident aliens.”
The provision in current state law prevents an individual from another country from owning land in Wisconsin unless they reside in the state. Walker’s proposal would change that to allow "nonresident alien individuals" to own land in the state.
A separate provision in state law prevents a foreign corporation from owning more than 640 acres of land. Walker’s proposal would change this by removing the acreage cap and allowing foreign corporations and foreign individuals to own unlimited amounts of land for any purpose. The one exception is farming.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, “I’m worried that in Wisconsin we are moving toward an investor-owned rather than a farmer-owned land base,” Vinehout says. “The fear then is that some of the sustainable practices aren’t used on the land because the investors aren’t looking long-term. Instead, these investors look to eke a few more dollars out of the land because it’s being managed by a bank for an investor somewhere else.”
A Wisconsin Farmers Union memo concludes that the budget proposal would constitute a “significant change” to existing law regarding foreign ownership of land in Wisconsin. “Adding more foreign competition for land ownership in the state, and in particular, tax-preferred agricultural land, would
drive up land prices and edge some resident landowners out of the market,” reads the memo. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the change is intended solely to clarify language that was confusing to potential foreign investors, specifically that the state’s 125-year-old law conflicts with the international treaty known as GATS, or the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
But the Wisconsin Farmers Union challenges the assertion: “Without more evidence of a credible legal challenge to Wisconsin’s current statute, the state rationale of needing the law change in order to comply with federal treaty does not withstand scrutiny,” the group's memo says.
John Peck, executive director of Madison-based Family Farm Defenders, doesn’t believe the GATS line either. He says Walker and Wisconsin lawmakers are poised to make the state part of a “global land-grabbing casino.”