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Budget Cuts Sprawl-Protecting Williamson Act Funds

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Over at the California Planning & Development Report, editor Paul Shigley blogs his outrage at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of Williamson Act funds in the new 2009-2010 state budget. The Williamson Act, a sort of anti-sprawl measure, gives tax breaks to landowners who sign at least 10-year contracts to keep their land development free, and use it for open space or farming, with county governments reimbursed for the lost property tax revenue. Here's Shigley's take: "With about 17 million acres enrolled, the 44-year-old Williamson Act amounts to the state’s biggest anti-sprawl program. Urban sprawl, of course, causes people to drive more and, therefore, produce more GHGs [greenhouse gases]. Considering the AB 32 goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, you’d think the state would do all it could to block sprawl. You know, things like provide incentives to rural landowners not to subdivide their pastures."

More from Shigley: "State lawmakers were willing to fund subventions at 80%, or about $28 million, but the governor said he needs to hang onto the money for the next emergency." According to the Daily Democrat, the Williamson Act protects about 16 million acres from development at a cost of about $37 million annually. The Ventura County Star has also been following the move, and, like Shigley, notes the hypocrisy on the part of the part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of talking about how California is a leader in green initiatives. The Star also explains the physics: farmland "pulls" C02 out air, and "a minimum total of 1.754 million tons of carbon [is] absorbed yearly by those 16.4 million Williamson Act acres. Or 3.5 billion pounds. No other program even contemplates eliminating more than a fraction of that tonnage from the air." [Via LA Smogtown]
· Williamson Act funds vetoed [Daily Democrat]
· Governor's Blue Pencil Strikes At Climate Change Efforts [Paul Shigley's Blog]