For many years, talk has periodically surfaced about splitting California at the Tehachapi Mountains into the states of Northern and a Southern California. The proposal never gained momentum.
Now, a new proposal to split California along political lines rather than geographic ones is gaining traction. The new state would be called “Jefferson.” It would be comprised mainly of counties dominated by the Republican Party and libertarians; Democrats would be left controlling the remainder.
Since Democrats have completely controlled state government for years and mostly come from urban counties, rural counties have felt left out. The bulk of California’s annual budget goes to servicing citizens in urban areas, with unfunded mandates hitting rural regions the hardest.
An Outline of the State of Jefferson
The counties of Del Norte, Modoc, the counties of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, most counties in the Great Valley, and Mono and Inyo Counties, are prime candidates for inclusion in a new state. The populations are low relative to urban coastal California counties and are dominated by Republicans, libertarians, and other alienated political groups that advocate less government, less regulation, and lower taxes.
The movement has been slowly growing for over 20 years. The idea began in Modoc County, which has always considered itself isolated from the rest of the state. The idea is spreading ever faster as Democrats in the state legislature impose more laws and values that differ from the large minority that identifies itself as conservative.
As evidence of the growing movement, roadside signs are appearing with greater frequency within the rural parts of the state, especially along Interstate 5 north of Sacramento and Interstate 80 near Auburn.
Barriers to Statehood
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to creating the state of Jefferson is in unification of the various alienated political factions within rural California. The political viewpoints in those groups are as varied as those within the Democratic Party. There are Tea Partiers, libertarians, conservative and liberal Republicans, Independents, and some progressives. Absent unity, advocates of a new state are having trouble gaining sufficient momentum to make separation a viable proposal.
Founders of the new state would need to start from scratch. California has been building its political structure for over 100 years. Starting over would take decades; the State of Jefferson would be behind all the other states both politically and economically.
The primary reason for establishing Jefferson would be to escape the political stranglehold of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the new state would be subject to the mandates of the federal government, which, like the state of California, imposes numerous unfunded mandates. For all of the efforts to create a new state awash in freedom, the oppressive hand of the federal government would force Jefferson to impose taxes similar to those that already exist in California.
The state of Jefferson would need to create a new statewide bureaucracy with a mechanism to raise taxes for tasks counties are not able to do. Over time, it could evolve into another California, with many of the same problems.
The San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley has been referred to as the Appalachia of the West because of the large numbers of impoverished citizens. If the Valley joined the state of Jefferson, the social safety net that the state provides to impoverished citizens would vanish. Many citizens would either be forced to move into what remains of California or suffer much more hardship.
Advocates for the creation of Jefferson would probably prefer that poor people move into the remains of California so that Jefferson’s citizens could avoid paying taxes to fund benefits. The Valley would become even more like Appalachia; if the poor move away, urban areas within Jefferson would suffer population losses that would leave more blighted buildings and an even more desperate economy. Property values would drop as the demand for housing abated, dragging the Jefferson economy into a downward spiral.
No Services without Taxes
The governors of Jefferson would have to figure out how to maintain roads and pay for public safety and services. California government collects a large percentage of the taxes that provide public services within the state. If a state doesn’t impose taxes, it can’t provide services.
The founders of Jefferson would probably pick a state to emulate. They may learn the hard way that almost everything has already been tried. Taxes are necessary in any political jurisdiction. Building a new state that is better than what we presently have won’t be so easy.