SACRAMENTO — A bipartisan group of 32 legislators are urging their colleagues to include funding for the California Land Conservation Act, better known as the Williamson Act, in the 2014-15 State Budget. The Williamson Act assists counties and cities with subvention payment funding to protect agricultural and open space lands, however, funding has been suspended since the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year.
“In addition to preserving California’s vital agricultural industry, the Williamson Act preserves open space and wildlife habitat, protects watersheds and helps reduce greenhouse gases,” said Nate Beason, RCRC chair and Nevada County supervisor. “The Williamson Act is vital to the financial health of local government, and by signing onto this letter, these members of the Legislature have acknowledged the importance of this funding to local communities.”
The Williamson Act is a state-established program that preserves agricultural and open space lands through property tax incentives and voluntary restrictive use contracts. Private landowners, in exchange for lower property taxes, enter into rolling 10 or 20 year contractual commitments with participating counties and cities to keep their land in agricultural and/or compatible open space use. In exchange, the state provides the counties and cities with a partial replacement for their foregone property tax from the land enrolled in the program.
The Williamson Act has proven effective for the state, protecting more than 16.5 million acres, or nearly one-third of all privately owned land in California. However, intended to be a partnership between the state, counties, cities and landowners, state subventions have not been paid since 2009, and counties and cities are struggling to meet their responsibilities under the Williamson Act as a result.
RCRC has organized a coalition of nearly 30 agricultural, environmental, and local government groups to advocate on behalf of meeting the terms of the original partnership agreement through the funding of Williamson Act subvention payments.
The bipartisan legislator letter can be accessed here. The Williamson Act coalition letter can be accessed here.
The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is a 34-member county strong service organization that champions policies on behalf of California’s rural counties. RCRC is dedicated to representing the collective unique interests of its membership, providing legislative and regulatory representation at the State and Federal levels, and providing responsible services for its members to enhance and protect the quality of life in rural California counties. To learn more about RCRC, visit rcrcnet.org.