While we here at Blogging Blue have spent a lot of time over the past week highlighting the rallies in Madison in opposition to the anti-labor provisions of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget “repair” bill, there’s at least one (if not many more) provisions of Gov. Walker’s proposal that bears mentioning.
In what can only be categorized as a sweetheart deal for utility companies, section 16.896 of Gov. Walker’s 144-page budget “repair” bill would allow the sale or contractual operation of state owned heating, cooling, and power plants with or without the solicitation of bids and for any amount deemed appropriate by Walker’s administration (emphasis mine):
16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).
While the fact that state-owned facilities could be sold without a public bidding process for any amount deemed appropriate by Gov. Walker’s administration is disturbing, even more disturbing is the fact that Gov. Walker’s proposal would also change the definition of “public interest” so that any sale – no matter whether for fair value or in a sweetheart deal – would be deemed automatically in the public interest.
No doubt that with Gov. Walker’s $43,000 connection to Koch Industries, not to mention Jeff “energy utilities are my best friends” Plale in charge of state facilities, we can look forward to Wisconsin’s state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants sold for top dollar!
(That last line was sarcasm, in case anyone didn’t get it.)