Commentary: California smart to look at surplus property

As the state scrambles for dollars, the governor and other politicians are tossing out some attention-grabbing ideas, such as selling San Quentin prison or the Los Angeles Coliseum. Those are interesting possibilities, but since these facilities are currently in use, selling them isn't a quick — or necessarily practical — solution.

A more thoughtful, long-term approach is being promoted by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto. He got the blessing from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to lead a committee that will inventory surplus state property and propose streamlined ways to sell it.

Cogdill brings expertise to this task; he has worked for years as a real estate appraiser. He has recruited a bipartisan mix of senators to serve on the Senate Select Committee on Surplus Property, and the committee will begin meeting in late June.

Currently, each state agency is supposed to report annually to the Department of General Services property that it no longer needs. Some agencies do this; others don't. There's not much incentive for an agency to list property as surplus because, in most cases, the money from selling it will go to the general fund, not back to the individual agency.

Because the state owns so much property, compiling an inventory won't be easy or quick. The committee has a two-year life, and Cogdill doesn't expect the job will be finished even within that time frame.

But if this committee can help the state identify property that isn't needed and a way to sell it for a fair price, then there's an opportunity for the state to benefit from the sales and for private business to acquire and put the land or buildings to use. Any property sold would also go back on the tax rolls, meaning a steady income for government coffers.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.