Williamson Act Rip

Williamson Act Slashed

The Williamson act, now almost 45 years old, took the biggest hit yet in the budget. Governor Schwarzenegger reduced the repayment to the counties from almost $28 million to $1,000. That’s a thousand bucks for all counties combined; essentially, he left just enough funding to keep the program alive, in case California should ever be solvent again.

The state website (here) states: 

Once the economy rebounds, the Department is hopeful that subvention payments will be available again and the Williamson Act program will continue to have a significant, positive impact on California agriculture and land-use planning.

The Williamson Act protects agricultural land and open space by providing a tax advantage: the property is taxed at the capitalization from income rather than one the typical property value of the land. In exchange the landowner gives up the right to capitalize on the land by development. The contract is for a ten year period, renewed each year. Studies indicate that over 85 percent of those in Williamson (and super-Williamson) contracts are happy with the arrangement.

The subvention funds made up the difference in lost property value to the county.

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