RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone Tuesday set aside a proposal calling for a convention to discuss splitting up California, winning unanimous approval instead to host a summit where representatives from cities and counties can exchange ideas about how to make the state function better.
The supervisor’s plan for a 51st state has generated a buzz, with mixed reactions, and speakers at Tuesday morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting were both receptive and critical of the concept.
“The state is no longer governable,” said Temecula City Councilman Mike Naggar. “Tens of thousands of us are no longer represented in Sacramento.”
“California is the quintessential land of fruits and nuts,” added Murrieta City Councilman Doug McAllister. “The (governor’s office) has made it clear they already consider us two separate states. We should at least have a conversation about statehood. We need to remind the state that power flows from the bottom up.”
McAllister and others blasted comments by Gov. Jerry Brown’s press secretary, Gil Duran, who said conservatives unhappy with California should move to Arizona. Duran told City News Service that Stone’s idea was a “joke.”
Several secession opponents questioned Stone’s motives.
Norco resident Julie Waltz wondered whether he had proposed a new state to further his “political career,” while Meadowbrook resident Gary Grant compared the action to “breaking from the foundation on which this country was established.”
Stone said he hatched the idea while fuming about the 2011-12 state budget, which includes provisions that shift revenues away from counties and cities and increase the vehicle license fee — without a two-thirds approval by the Legislature, as required under the California constitution.
“The state has looted Riverside County to the tune of $166 million,” the supervisor said. “Our friends and neighbors are losing jobs and homes and marriages are breaking up because of the stress the economy has placed on working families, yet lawmakers in Sacramento make one job-killing decision after another.”
Stone cited a survey showing that California is ranked dead last in business-friendliness nationally, and he named a number of companies that he said have moved operations outside the state to escape high taxation and regulation, including Dell, Toyota and Northrop Grumman.
“Aerospace is gone,” the supervisor said. “Automobile manufacturers have been chased out.”
The practicing pharmacist and business owner highlighted the benefits companies have realized by relocating to states with no personal or corporate income taxes and comparatively low regulation, such as Texas.
Stone described California as “too big to govern” and a laggard in K- 12 education, with one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients and only 12 percent of its population. The Orange County native said he wanted “the Golden State to be golden again,” but feared the task of “getting government out of the way” would be too great, leaving secession as the only alternative.
The supervisor’s proposal called for Riverside, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare counties to join forces in forming a new state.
Stone envisioned a part-time legislature, with lawmakers meeting for three months every two years — like Texas — and earning $600 per month instead of $400 per day. He said South California’s constitution should include a balanced budget provision and property tax protections, akin to those guaranteed under Proposition 13.
After hearing comments, Stone modified his proposal, asking for the board’s endorsement of a privately-funded summit at the Riverside Convention Center, with the goal of identifying how to change the way the state does business. Any resident or local representative from anywhere in the state would be invited.
“Only something positive is going to come out of this,” Stone said.
The board voted 4-0 in favor.
The summit will likely be held in late September or October.
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