Lawmakers Encouraged about Prospect of Moving Legislation to Shed Federal Properties

A bipartisan push may be under way to enact legislation motivating the federal government to thin its portfolio of an estimated 14,000 unneeded properties.

Multiple efforts since the beginning of 2011 to reform the process for federal property disposal have not advanced, but following a Capitol Hill roundtable last week featuring real estate experts and former federal officials, two lawmakers are eager to try again.

“I think we heard some very constructive ideas from the private sector and that enable us, hopefully, in the second half of this Congress to move the ball into the other team’s territory and drive toward the end zone,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Federal News Radio. Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, hosted the event.

One hurdle that has hampered past legislative attempts from moving forward has been scoring by the Congressional Budget Office, which concluded the measures would increase federal spending. The bills would have allowed agencies to keep some or all of the proceeds from property sales, a change CBO found would increase direct spending by millions of dollars, according to the story.

But focusing only on the revenue potential from expediting sales ignores the tremendous savings agencies achieve by avoiding maintenance and operating costs after unloading a property, even if the government doesn’t experience a significant windfall from the sale.

“We often lose track of that concept when you’re looking at these bills, in part because you don’t get the scored savings for them,” Kim Burke, a managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle’s Public Institutions Group, said at the roundtable.

“It doesn’t help you in any way from a scoring perspective. But it shouldn’t keep you from doing something that’s smart,” Burke stated.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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