Self-inflicted budget wounds

For one, state has billions in land it won’t sell

Even on the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tax-and-spend, expansive terms, the state need not be facing a $15 billion budget deficit.

Because state government hoards hundreds of billions of dollars in real estate, it has missed a grand opportunity to at least temporarily ease its budget woes. The state owns about 2,000 land parcels, 19,000 buildings, golf courses, luxury homes, even football stadiums, much of which the government either has no use for or no business owning in the first place.

The problem is the state can’t shed these properties, despite requirements to identify surpluses every year and constitutional provisions for selling them. It wasn’t always so difficult. But according to a report by the state Republican Caucus, “state property sales became entangled in the ecopolitics of the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Prior to 2005, state-owned property for sale was exempted from environmental review because private buyers applied for the necessary approvals when developing the property. But since environmental activists decided in 2005 to oppose the state’s exemption, no surplus property bill has passed.

The state not only misses opportunities, it bungles what it engages in. Consider the $274 million a year spent providing remedial educationto college students. Yes, college students. That’s money that never should have to be spent.

Nevertheless, countless ill-prepared students are admitted to the state’s colleges and universities. For example, the California State University system required remedial courses in English and mathematics for more than 60 percent of first-time freshmen in 2006, the Pacific Research Institute found.

Students unprepared for college, most of them California public school graduates, create additional unnecessary expenses for taxpayers.

When Sacramento politicians complain their budget falls short, they can blame themselves for missing opportunities to sell what they shouldn’t own, and for having to reteach college students what state-financed K-12 schools failed to teach the first time around. This is not management that needs more taxes from Californians. It’s a system that needs to quit bungling and missing opportunities.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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