This article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the problems California has in collecting fees from business for using government land highlights the apparently inherent difficulty government—at least in our state—has dealing effectively with business at all.
While this is an unfortunate trend, it is one that is changing in Sacramento County, as we saw with the very successful Gibson Ranch Park transfer of management control from the Parks Department to private enterprise.
An excerpt from the article.
“California is doing a poor job of collecting rent from energy companies and other businesses that are profiting from public land, costing the fiscally challenged state millions of dollars, according to an audit released Tuesday.
“The examination by the state auditor found the State Lands Commission, which is responsible for natural and cultural resources on public land, could have generated $8.2 million from a sample of 35 leases, some dating back 30 years.
“Besides holding surface and mineral rights on dry land, the commission’s jurisdiction extends to the 4 million acres of tidelands and submerged lands that lie along the coast and the beds of rivers and lakes.
“The report found the commission has failed in many cases to collect rent from energy companies, marinas and other businesses that use California’s public land. It also has not properly reassessed the land’s value.
“This report concludes the commission has not always managed its more than 4,000 leases in the state’s best interest with the result that it has missed opportunities to generate millions of dollars in revenues for the state’s general fund,” state Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter accompanying the audit.
“The commission’s executive director, Curtis Fossum, blamed budget cuts for hampering the commission’s ability to conduct appraisals, manage leases and enforce agreements. Of the 242 positions supported by general state taxes that existed in 1990, just 63 remain.
“These losses are principally those positions that performed much of the workload that we are now being criticized for failing to perform,” Fossum wrote in a response to the audit.
“Even with the staff reductions, Howle said, the commission has not figured out how much staff is needed to address the current workload.”