Plan to sell state buildings raises concerns

April 28, 2010 6:51:09 PM PDT
There is a fly in the ointment in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to sell 11 state-owned buildings. He wants to unload them to raise some quick cash for California, but some lawmakers aren't sure it's such a good idea.

Jerry Epstein and Don Casper held their appointed positions on the State Building Authority for decades, until they asked the Schwarzenegger administration for an economic analysis for the proposed sale of 11 state office buildings, including the one that houses the state Supreme Court.

The Department of General Services fired and replaced them shortly after their inquiry.

"Where was the feasibility study to show the practical impact of the proposed sale? And what were the checks? What were the balances," Epstein said.

"The Department of General Services did not want there to be an open discussion and vetting of the sales," Casper said.

State representatives testified it's within their rights to replace appointees at any time.

"The Director exercised his authority to appoint new members who would be open to the potential sale of the properties," Laura Zuniga from State & Consumer Services Agency said.

Schwarzenegger has been pushing for the sale of state buildings and leasing them back for 20 years as a way to make quick cash for the financially struggling state.

Two different reports concluded, it would cost the state more in the long run to rent -- especially since most of the properties for sale are about to be owned free and clear.

"No matter how you set this up, this is going to end up being a bad deal for the state," Christopher Thornberg Ph.D. from Beacon Economics said.

The state has already received more than 300 bids for various buildings, and multiple offers above $2 billion for the entire portfolio.

"There have been no economic analyses at this point?" Assm. Bill Emerson, R-Redlands, said.

"No, because we wanted to wait until we have the final numbers," Zuniga said.

Schwarzenegger has been assuring California taxpayers there will be no "fire sale," even in this recession.

"I can guarantee you that I will never sell state property if it doesn't make any sense," Schwarzenegger said last week.

The state is pushing forward to name the winning bidder by the end of next month and then release an economic analysis.


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