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Don't Split California

Billionaire Tim Draper’s plan to split California into three states will be on the ballot in November and, from my perspective, it is a terrible idea. The plan, the legality of which is being challenged, would form a Northern California state, stretching from the Bay area to Oregon, a Southern California state including the inland regions from Fresno south and the coastal regions of Orange and San Diego counties. The third state, which would retain the name of California would include Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. California has the largest population and the largest economy of any state in the union. It has become the center of technological innovation for the rest of the country. For these reasons, California has enormous power compared to other states, when it comes to shaping the course of national policies. If not overturned by legal challenges, California may singlehandedly force automakers to retain stringent emission controls, even as the federal government relaxes such standards. Other climate-change battling measures, made into law in California, such as cap and trade, not only can show the country how reducing greenhouse gases can work, but force companies who want to do business with California to follow such policies. We possess the strongest state university system in the country, both in terms of quality and, almost as importantly, in terms of including poor and minority students. 

California has problems, some of them shared by other parts of the country and some unique to California. Homelessness is rampant, in many parts of the state the housing prices are prohibitive to anyone who is not upper middle class. Cost of living is below only Hawaii, District of Columbia, New York and New Jersey. California ranks 46thamong the states in amount spent per student on education. We’re only slightly below the middle (#28) in percent of residents without health insurance. Our unemployment rate of 4.2% is 16thhighest among the states and above the national average. Income inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) ranks 4th highest in the country. Politically conservative citizens feel that their voices are not heard in state politics, which is dominated by one party.

While our problems are present, dividing the state into three new states would fix none of them, except perhaps giving politically conservative Republicans a greater voice in their states’s politics within the new state of Southern California. The current statewide tax structure, which funds much of education, mental health, programs for the poor, and infrastructure projects, including the highway system, would be abandoned for three separate tax structures. Many of the poorer communities, which require more taxes than they contribute, proportionally, would lose their wealthier tax base, which would end up in the other states.

Most alarming would be the loss of political and economic power the state now wields because of its size. For those with a liberal bent toward issues such as immigration, climate change, healthcare, and minority rights, this would nullify the influence California now has on these national issues. Some conservatives may see this as desirable, but I do not.

California has problems that need fixing. Homelessness, the state of its education system and the high cost of living, particularly housing costs (created by over regulation by local interests, which interfere with the ability to build enough housing to meet the population’s needs) are high on the list of what needs to be fixed. Farmers’ interests  are underrepresented in many ways. But these are fixable problems. Breaking up the state would open a Pandora’s box of new problems that would be far worse.

Reader Comments (1)

I'm in complete agreement with you.

June 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

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