It happens every so often, particularly in tough budget times, reaction from California counties to cuts, deferrals and cash grabs by Sacramento leads to calls for secession.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone thinks 13 counties should secede from the state because of raids on local government funds and high taxes. Stone advocated formation of a new state, the “State of South California,” made up of Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Mariposa, Inyo and Mono counties.
“What is this, 1860? It’s a supremely ridiculous waste of everybody’s time,” commented Gov. Jerry Brown spokesman Gil Duran. “If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there’s a place called Arizona.’’
Not everyone is so dismissive of the idea. “Maybe it’s something to look into. Sacramento doesn’t care about us right now,” Bridgette Moore, a Councilwoman in one of the state’s newest cities, Wildomar, told the California County News. Incorporated in 2008, Wildomar took a hit in Brown’s new budget, and loss of vehicle license fee revenue is viewed as damaging for a new city in startup mode.
“We have a state legislature that’s gone wild. They just don’t care,” Stone said in an interview with the Riverside-San Bernardino Press Enterprise. “Their goal was to get a balanced budget so they could continue to get a paycheck.”
Secession has been formally contemplated before, more than 220 times since the Gold Rush days according to the Los Angeles Times. Some of the more recent occasions: In 1941, a quest by northern California and southern Oregon counties to secede from their respective states called for the creation of a 51st state, known as Jefferson. Their effort culminated in a big celebration on December 4, 1941, and drew newsreel reporters to chronicle the moment. But timing is everything, and three days later, the U.S. was thrust into WWII. Jefferson, these days, is often called a “state of mind” in the north country of California.
In the early 1990s, then Republican Assembly member Stan Statham authored bills to split the state into North, Central and South California. While getting lots of headlines, the idea was a non-starter legislatively and didn’t fare any better later on as a ballot measure. In 2009, another ex-GOP Assembly Member, Bill Maze, unsuccessfully pushed an initiative to carve up the state on an inland/coastal basis.
Analysts say Stone’s idea addresses the perceived disconnect between Sacramento and California’s localities, especially rural ones, and the political reality that, of the 13 counties in his proposed block, Republicans account for most of the registered voters in all but two of them, San Bernardino and Imperial. Conversely, Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College told the Christian Science Monitor that secession would amount to “a divorce, which typically leaves both spouses worse off economically … and would be bad for the kids.” Pitney point out that even if the 13 counties went for the idea, it would still have to clear the legislature, which he deemed “theoretically possible,” but “practically impossible.”
Flames over rural fire fees
Governor Jerry Brown is defending his recent signing of ABX1 29, a controversial bill that charges many of the state’s rural residents for fire protection. The bill is expected to bring in $50 million in revenue. Within state-responsibility areas, residents will be charged $150 for the fire prevention fee. The new fee is expected to affect around 860,000 homes.
Critics charge that many property owners in such regions already assess themselves to ensure they are covered by local fire services and therefore the bill will amount to double taxation. Citing population and more urbanized development in state responsibility areas, Brown said in a statement he thinks that “a portion of the costs borne by the state for wildland fire prevention and protection services should be funded by landowners in these areas.”
The Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC) is opposed to the fee and the Fire Districts Association of California has argued that affected residents will have to pay another fee to basically receive the same amount of coverage. The administration contends the fee is based on prevention as opposed to protection, and claims charges of “double taxation” are misleading.
Protect and serve …
or serve and collect?
Car accidents are a fact of life, but as unpleasant as they are, in some California cities, they could get worse. As many as 50 California towns and municipalities actually will send you a bill to pay for police, fire and medical response to your crash.
These are supposed to be basic services, but that hasn’t stopped cash-strapped cities from charging “crash taxes.” Some areas charge only those at fault, others both parties. In some cases, just out-of-town drivers get dinged, and in others insured drivers get stuck with the bill, letting the uninsured motorists off the hook.
One thing all crash taxes have in common, reports the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC), is that all of them are propagated by billing companies and collection agencies that keep a percentage of whatever they pull in. Several cities have reportedly been sold on the concept by claims that insurance companies will foot the bill, which more often than not turns out to be false.
Regardless of where you live, even in Mammoth Lakes, where crash taxes aren’t in effect, you can be affected by these fees. If you travel and are unfortunate enough to have an accident, you could find yourself receiving one of these bills if you’re in the wrong city … Sacramento, for example.
Enter Senate Bill 49, which proposes to eliminate all such crash taxes statewide.
“Public safety is not an option — and the public shouldn’t be deterred from calling for help because they’re concerned about their ability to pay when the bill arrives,” ACSC CEO Thomas McKernan said in an editorial in the June edition of “Westways” magazine. California, he said, should come up with other ways to resolve state and local budget gaps. “Turning police officers and firefighters into profit centers for collection agencies isn’t the answer.” If SB 49 is passed and signed by the governor, California would join 13 other states that have banned so-called crash taxes.
Add’l sources: KQED, CalCrashTax.com, Christian Science Monitor