Friday, July 1, 2011

Riverside County Supervisor Proposes Secession from California

Looks like we're not the only people who are down on the state budget that Jerry Brown signed into law yesterday. The Riverside Press reports that Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone is so ticked off at politics as usual that he's ready for a radical solution: leading an effort among the state's rural and conservative counties to secede from the state of California.

Granted, officials in Riverside County have reason to be angry at Sacramento today. As this Press report explains, a provision in the new budget will seize city vehicle-license fee revenues and use them toward local law enforcement grants. Since new cities typically rely on extra license fee money to help them set up shop, four new towns in the county - Eastvale, Menifee, Jurupa Valley, and Wildomar - will be losing substantial chunks of their general fund budgets overnight. All will now be facing insolvency and, possibly, disincorporation. Though lawmakers in this predominantly Republican region pleaded with Brown to prevent the shift, apparently targeting these cities is Brown's way of getting even for GOP refusal to back his tax proposals; in a Tuesday interview, he said, "Some of these Republicans think they can have their cake and eat it too. Well they can't. When you don't have money, there are real-world consequences. When it disappears, it comes from cities, doctors, poor people, university students." (Note to new cities: next time, organize yourselves into a union first.) And according to Stone, there's only one way out of the high taxes and state-level raids on local governments funds: "We have a state Legislature that has gone wild. They just don't care. Their goal was to get a balanced budget so they could continue to get a paycheck. There is only one solution: A serious secession from the liberal arm of the state of California." As such, Stone will offer a proposal to his Board colleagues on July 12, in the hopes that they will move the idea forward and start to coordinate with officials in other counties. Ultimately, the goal is for the counties of Riverside, San Diego, Orange, Imperial, San Bernardino, Kings, Tulare, Inyo, Kern, Fresno, Mariposa, Madera, and Mono to split off and form a new state called South California (see below).

As you'd expect, most of the early reaction to Stone's proposal ranged from ridicule to dismissal. And clearly, while anything is possible, the prospect of breaking up California is very unlikely. Nonetheless, the fact that an elected official is openly proposing secession is at least somewhat significant. For one thing, with Orange County preparing legal action against the state government over the taking of $48 million worth of its vehicle license money, Stone is clearly not the only person upset over it. More importantly, this proposal only highlights the increasingly strained relations between the coalition of labor unions, environmentalists, and bureaucrats that run California's political system and the rest of us trying to make a living in its private economy. If Stone's secession plan succeeded, we'd guess that South California would be a pretty liberty-friendly place; like many of the former Soviet republics, these counties would likely be eager to break cleanly from the memory of their suffering under communist rule.

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