GOP lawmaker wants ‘South California’ to be the nation’s 51st state

Holly Bailey

A GOP lawmaker in California says he has a solution to the state's massive budget woes: He wants 13 conservative-leaning counties to secede and form a new state called "South California."

The secession push is the brainchild of Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, a Republican who tells the Los Angeles Times he's sick of the state government raiding local budgets without curbing its own spending in pursuit of what he calls a liberal agenda.

He's set to formally present the idea to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. The board will vote on Stone's proposal for a stateside summit to sketch out plans for secession. Under Stone's plan, the new 51st state would include 13 Southern California counties--Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono--and would be made up of roughly 13 million people.

Los Angeles was intentionally left off the list because it's simply too liberal, according to Stone.

"Los Angeles is purposely excluded because they have the same liberal policies that Sacramento does. The last thing I want to do is create a state that's a carbon copy of what we have now," Stone tells the Times' Phil Willon. "Los Angeles just enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags. That put three or four manufacturers out of business."

This is hardly the first time Californians have entertained the idea of succession. Dozens of proposals to split the state apart have been considered over the years, in part due to political tensions between Northern and Southern California. In 1992, legislation made was passed in the California State Assembly that would have divided the state into three new territories: North, Central and South California. But the bill ultimately died in the state Senate.

In 2003, a proposal was pitched to divide California into four separate states to make government more manageable. In 2009, secession proponents launched yet another drive to carve the state up—this time into a region called "Coastal California," which would include Los Angeles County heading north along the coast to Marin County.

Of course, secession talk isn't unique to California. Earlier this year, a group of Arizona activists angry about Gov. Jan Brewer's focus on immigration and social issues launched an effort to make Southern Arizona a new state. Meanwhile, Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry, whose own state has debated various proposals to split up into smaller territories, upped the ante in 2009, suggesting his state might secede from the United States altogether because of President Obama's spending proposals.

History suggests Stone's proposal is unlikely to succeed--but it's a hint at the increasing political angst over California's dismal financial prospects. The state began the year with a nearly $26 billion budget deficit but spending cuts and better-than-expected revenues knocked that down to an estimated $9.6 billion as of last month. But yesterday, California officials revealed the state didn't meet its optimistic budget projections--and warned that further cuts and tax hikes could be on the way.

Stone told the Times that California has become an "ungovernable" financial catastrophe where taxpayers are suffering under the burden of caring for welfare recipients and illegal immigrants.

But a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown laughed off Stone's measure.

"It's a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody's time," Brown spokesman Gil Duran told the Times. "If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there's a place called Arizona.''

(Screenshot of proposed "South California via KCAL)