Governor approves $10 million for Williamson Act
By WES SANDER
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into a law a bill that puts $10 million of taxpayer money into the Williamson Act.
SB863, a trailer bill for the state budget finalized on Oct. 8, rewrites some redevelopment tax laws in addition to increasing funding for the popular farmland-preservation program.
Through the four-decade-old Williamson Act, the state compensates counties for much of the property-tax revenue they lose when they enter contracts with landowners to preserve farmland in exchange for lower tax assessments.
In signing a state budget in 2009, Schwarzenegger vetoed the subvention funding after the legislature sent him a budget he deemed too big.
When added to the estimated $20 million expected to return to county coffers because of a recent Williamson Act alteration, the bill is expected to restore nearly all of the reimbursements that counties have lost since last year.
The subvention fund has traditionally totaled $35 million annually, fed by the state's general fund. To help balance the budget, lawmakers last year reduced it to $28 million before Schwarzenegger slashed the fund, leaving $1,000 as a placeholder.
The new funding, and the recent alteration, are considered temporary measures while planners work to reduce the Williamson Act's reliance on the general fund.