Southern California Pushes for Secession

New budget will put "cities and counties on the brink of bankruptcy."

July 2, 2011, 2:33 PM

July 2, 2011 — -- A new push to divide the Golden State in two could make Southern California the 51st state.

"Our state legislature that is supposed to be making laws and being respected, imposes laws that aren't even lawful," Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone told Los Angeles ABC station KABC-TV. "So I think our state is California gone wild."

Stone is proposing that 13 Southern California counties secede from the state, dividing California into a north and south region.

Stone's proposal came on Thursday just hours after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state's new budget legislation, passed by the Democratic majority, which will divert millions of dollars away from county and city agencies.

"With this budget, you will see cities and counties on the brink of bankruptcy," Stone told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside.

"Local jurisdiction, particularly those in Southern California, have been at the mercy of the state legislature for well over a decade," Stone's chief of staff, Verne Lauritzen, told "The state has been unable and incompetent in producing a budget that is not only balanced but appropriate to local governments."

One of the elements of the budget that has particularly angered Stone is a trailer, SV89, which says that any city in the state incorporated after 2004 must forfeit funding from the vehicle licensing fee.

"This bill unfairly targets only four cities, all of which are in Riverside County," Lauritzen said. "All of them have been incorporated since 2004. One of them was just incorporated yesterday, Jurupa Valley. This bill creates a $6.2 million takeaway from that city, which has an approximate budget of $22 million. They'll have to forfeit nearly 30 percent of that. That is catastrophic."

"Let's have a state that was the Golden State two decades ago," Stone said. "That welcomes businesses to the state, that allows capitalism to prevail."

The succession plan also calls for a shift of the balance of power to local governments. But some local leaders say it will be impossible for South California to function on its own.

"Southern California depends significantly on Northern California for much of our water supply," Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner told KABC. "It's contentious enough with us being one state, and I think it would be worse if we were two separate states."

This is not the first secession proposal California has seen. The first proposal came in the 1850s, then others in the 1940s, 1965 and 1992, when former Northern California legislator Stan Statham tried to split the state into not two, but three states.

The current secession proposal would include the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono, and have a population of 13.07 million people. The remaining state of California would have 24.18 million.

"I don't want to just duplicate the problems that we already have in our existing state of California," Stone told the Press-Enterprise, adding that if other counties are interested in seceding, "We would welcome them."

Many criticized Stone's plan, including Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster, who called it crazy.

"[Stone] makes a lot of good points," Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said, according to the Press-Enterprise. "I understand his frustration, but I'm not sure dividing up the state is the answer."

Lauritzen said that over next several months Stone hopes to bring representatives from the other counties together for a symposium on his secession idea.

"We're certainly not saying it would be easy. There are lots of questions," Lauritzen said to ABC News. "But we have reached a point where this discussion just needs to take place."

Both the state legislature and Congress would have to sign off on any plan to split California in two, so even if the other counties like the idea, seceding won't be easy.

ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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