Billionaire’s Plan To Split California Into 6 States Will Likely Be On 2016 Ballot
A billionaire venture capitalist’s long-shot plan to split California into six separate states appears as if it has won enough support to qualify for the 2016 electoral ballot.
Timothy Draper, founder of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has invested in such powerhouse companies as Twitter, Skype and Tesla, claims his Six Californias measure, which would split the nation’s most populous state and the world’s eighth-largest economy into six smaller states, has gathered more than the 808,000 signatures necessary to appear on the 2016 ballot.
“The idea… is to create six states with responsive local governments —states that are more representative and accountable to their constituents,” campaign spokesman Roger Salazar told Reuters. “It’s important because it will help us create a more responsive, more innovative and more local government, and that ultimately will end up being better for all Californians.”
Under Draper’s plan, six new states would be born from a California break-up:
Jefferson would consist of 14 northern, almost completely rural, counties. The name is a nod to a longtime movement by northern California and southern Oregon counties to form their own state called Jefferson.
North California would be centered around the current capital, Sacramento, and would include 13 counties in a swathe stretching from Marin, just north of San Francisco, on the coast, through the Napa and Sonoma wine countries and up the foothills into the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe and east to the Nevada state line.
Silicon Valley would consist of the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose and Silicon Valley, as well as Big Sur and much of the Central Coast. The state would have eight counties. With 6.8 million residents, it would be the third-most populous of the new states.
Central California would be a global agricultural powerhouse consisting of 14 rural counties in the central and eastern portion of the state. It would include Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield, as well as Yosemite and Sequoia national parks and Death Valley.
West California would include coastal counties from San Luis Obispo in the north down to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. It would be the most populous of the new states, with some 11.5 million residents.
South California would consist of the five southern counties of San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial. It would stretch from the shores of the Pacific through the desert and farmland between the coast and the Arizona border. With 10.7 million inhabitants, it would be the second-most populous of the new states.
Proponents of the breakup plan claim it would foster a more business-friendly environment, solve critical water issues, ease traffic congestion and allow people in each new state to craft legislation that reflect their values. Silicon Valley, for example, might abolish capital punishment, while South California might lower income tax rates and Jefferson could legalize marijuana.
But there is strong bipartisan opposition to the plan. Progressive critics claim the breakup will exacerbate already glaring wealth inequality.
“You’d be creating one exceptionally wealthy state and others with dire poverty,” University of San Francisco political science professor Corey Cook told the Huffington Post. “You’d create massive inequality.”
Republicans, who claim to champion smaller government, de-centralization and local control, have also come out against the plan.
US Rep. Tom McClintock (R), who is based in Sacramento, told The Hill that “it would be far more productive if the public policy debate focused on restoring prosperity to a grossly over-taxed and over-regulated state.”
“This is a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy and money that will hurt the California brand,” warned Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio, who has joined forces with Republican strategist Joe Rodota to fight Draper’s plan.
“It has zero chance of passage,” Maviglio told Reuters. “But what it does is scare investment away… at a time when [Gov. Jerry Brown] is leading us to an economic comeback.”
Maviglio may be right. Not only must the breakup plan score an unlikely victory at the ballot box in 2016, it must also win the approval of Congress. It is impossible to predict which party will control which house of Congress after the 2016 elections, but it is likely that at least three of the new states resulting from a California split would be populated by Democrat majorities.