PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Breaking California in Two

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone recently proposed that 13 of California's 58 counties secede and  form the 51st state in the Union:

Mr. Stone’s list of complaints is long — too much money spent on state prisons, too much power for public unions, too many regulations and not enough of a crackdown on illegal immigration. . . .

Under Mr. Stone’s proposal the [new] state would have only a part-time Legislature, with lawmakers earning $600 a month. And there would be no term limits. One crucial element of California’s budget structure (and an article of faith among Republicans) would remain: a strict limit on property taxes.

I like this proposal. A lot. It would allow the richer counties of the coast to get rid of the deadweight of the inland empire--the secessionist area receives more in income from state government spending than they send to Sacramento in taxes.  And those poorer, culturally conservative counties wouldn't have the idiots in Sacramento to kick around any more. Everyone wins!

Plus, creating more interjurisdictional competition would be a powerful incentive for future state legislatures to govern effectively.  Right now, the "vote with your feet" threat doesn't seem to motivate individual legislators to act reasonably, especially those from states with difficult-to-replicate beaches and Mediterranean climate.  Last but not least, any deal to admit a new red state to the Union would probably require that the folks in D.C. get some long-deserved representation in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, there's no way this will fly.  The plan would need to be ratified by the California Legislature and the US Congress.  Would democrats in either body agree to concede the huge electoral college advantage that comes with one massive Democratic state?  Would super-rich San Diego and Orange counties want to subsidize the poor agricultural regions without the help of LA and San Francisco?  And who would control UC Irvine or California's share of water from the Colorodo River Compact?  Breaking up is really hard to do.

A side note; If we add more states, we also get to change the American Flag.  Here's a widget designed by Skip Garibaldi that figures out all possible combinations for flags of any number of stars.

Steve Clowney

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