News and Commentary

Referendum To Split California Into 3 States Gets On Ballot. Here’s What The New Californias Would Look Like.

A new proposal to break up California into three states received enough signatures on Tuesday to make it onto the November 6 ballot. Now all it takes is a majority of California voters supporting it to start dismantling the country’s most populous, wealthy and radical state.

The Los Angeles Times provides some more details on what would be “the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863”:

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history. …

The proposal aims to invoke Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the provision guiding how an existing state can be divided into new states. Draper’s plan calls for three new entities — Northern California, California and Southern California — which would roughly divide the population of the existing state into thirds.

Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties.

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The man behind the proposal is Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, who tried and failed in the past to convince Californians to divide the state into six new states — an effort undone in part because of questions about the economic viability of some of the new states, which his new proposal addresses better, and election officials invalidating many of the signatures on the proposal. Maybe the second time’s the charm.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Times after he first submitted the proposal last summer. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.” Draper maintains in the introduction to the longshot proposal that large sections of California are “poorly served” by a government dominated by representatives from only a small part of the state.

In a report worth watching if just for the awesome DC-themed mural at Draper’s headquarters, Reuters speaks with the “Silicon Valley titan” about why he thinks it’s time to do what the Romans did in the final stages of the empire and split the whole thing up. Reuters also mentions that a recent poll found that less than a fifth of Californians liked the idea:

Below are some of the arguments for the referendum presented on Draper’s Cal 3 website:

Stronger Education

In its current state, California ranks last in the country in high school graduation rates and near the bottom in high-priority subjects like math. The California Department of Education simply cannot manage 6.2 million students, nearly 300,000 teachers, and more than 1,000 school districts. Cal 3 will bring critical decision-making closer to home, giving states a fresh start and families better choices, with greater accountability and outcomes for everyone.

Safer Roads & Infrastructure

California’s highways, bridges, freeways, and city roads are ranked among the poorest in the nation. For example, Californians pay $844 a year in wear-and-tear on their vehicles due to shoddy roadways. Cal 3 gives regional governments greater control over critical infrastructure spending that will enhance the safety and security of their citizens.

Lower Taxes

Californians pay the highest taxes in the nation, and yet our tax dollars are mismanaged in every way. Cal 3 would encourage each state set lower tax rates to encourage families and employers to make their home there.

Accountable Tax Oversight, Manageable Budget & Spending

Despite sky-high taxes and hundreds of billions earmarked in spending through Sacramento, Californians see little regional return on our investment. Cal 3 would promote greater citizen oversight of and control over how taxes are being spent, with the result being a more responsive government and elected officials spending in closer alignment with their constituents’ more pressing and important needs.

Local Identity, Autonomy & Diversity

Rather than being managed remotely — and ineffectively — from Sacramento, each state will have the autonomy to make choices based on the most pressing needs and opportunities closest to home. Cal 3 uses the region’s natural geographic boundaries to emphasize local identity, while retaining existing county lines in order to preserve Californians’ natural pride in our diverse population.

Efficient Government & Area-Specific Regulations

California’s diverse regions require government attention that is specifically tailored to address that area’s needs. The economic climate in areas like San Bernardino and Fresno is very different from the economic climate in areas like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Dividing California into smaller states will help elected officials decide which laws and tax regulations best suit that specific region, resulting in more responsive government.

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