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News Release
May 20, 2003

Independent Institute Challenges Davis on State Budget
Proposes sale of state surplus property, rather than raise taxes

OAKLAND, CALIF. – With California slipping further and further into debt, and Gov. Gray Davis proposing paltry resolutions that result only in billions of dollars in deficit, Independent Institute research fellow William Shughart challenges Davis to sell off its surplus government property for revenue, rather than raise unnecessary taxes on its citizens.

"No legitimate purpose of state or local government is now served, if it ever was, by public ownership of assets that would be deployed more cost-effectively in the private sector," says Shughart in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed. "Selling these and other public assets, as well as privatizing inefficient operations, would transfuse billions of dollars into anemic public finances."

California government agencies own over 1 million acres of real estate in 15 high-land-cost counties, according to the state auditor’s office. Unused public land in California is determined to be "surplus" and therefore candidates for disposal. Despite this, state agencies don’t sell off the land, wasting an opportunity for possibly millions of dollars in revenue. For example, Caltrans recently sold a piece of property it had designated as surplus 38 years earlier.

"We have all of these assets owned by the state, but not being used by the state. In fact, some of these assets haven’t been used in years," says Independent Institute president David Theroux. "If Governor Davis is open to new budget ideas, as he suggests he is, then we challenge him to start selling off surplus assets, rather than raise taxes on taxpayers who are already paying too much.

"In the midst of economic hardship, rather than raise taxes on an already desperate California public or force cities to close libraries and schools, why on earth wouldn’t Davis sell off unused land for revenue? It’s time for the governor to start looking into more creative ideas rather than the old tax and spend song-and-dance that only benefits special interests."


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