The Legislature doesn't get credit for doing many things right these days, but lawmakers appear to be making at least one bipartisan strike for fiscal sanity.

In April, I called the Schwarzenegger administration's plan to sell 11 state office buildings in order to raise immediate cash "real estate insanity." I was only piling on to what the Legislative Analyst's Office and state Legislature staff members had concluded: Selling needed state-owned facilities and then leasing them back from private owners was a major money loser in the long term. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimated the governor's plan could cost the state an extra $1.5 billion over 35 years. The move would also reverse a 40-year-old state policy of owning real estate whenever possible.

Last week, the Assembly approved AB 2605 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), which would prevent the administration from selling the office buildings without a 50-year cost-benefit analysis and the Legislature's consent. The Assembly vote was 68-0.

The bill is now in the state Senate, where it awaits assignment to a committee. It is possible the legislation will get stalled in budget negotiations, as the governor's most recent budget plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year anticipates $600 million from the real estate sales. And we need to keep in mind that some legislative leaders are amenable to short-term fixes to the latest $20 billion state budget deficit. Witness Speaker John Pérez's budget proposal that relies on $9 billion in borrowing. 

Still, the overwhelming, bipartisan vote in the Assembly suggests that even lawmakers who want to avoid hard budget decisions are unwilling to accept the governor's plan to trade long-term real estate assets for short-term cash.

– Paul Shigley