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Joe Guzzardi: Six Californias proposal is intriguing, but will it pass?

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Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2014 12:00 am

The fascinating Initiative No. 13-0063 is about nine weeks and 807,615 signatures shy of appearing on the November 2014 ballot. You may know the initiative better by its formal name: Six Californias.

Breaking California up into several different states is an idea that been around for as long as I can remember. In the 1950s, growing up in Los Angeles, I’d overhear the adults in my family speculating about the pros and cons of a multiple-state California.

Sponsored by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, who announced his plan last December, the initiative was originally met with skepticism. Critics — of whom there are many — dismissed the idea as a publicity stunt.

But recently, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen gave her approval to begin the signature gathering process. Draper’s rationale is that California is too large, and therefore ungovernable. Dividing California into six smaller states would, ideally, bring the nearly 40 million residents closer to their government. Six Californias would mean six governors instead of one, and 12 U.S. Senators instead of two.

Draper’s goal is to split California’s massive territory into six new states which would be known as Jefferson (currently California’s 14 northern-most counties), North California (Sacramento and Yolo Country), Central California (comprised of more than 12 diverse counties and with a total 4.2 million population, roughly the same as Kentucky), West California (Los Angeles, Hollywood and Long Beach; with 11.5 million people, similar to Ohio), South California (San Diego, Santa Ana and Orange County), and the Silicon Valley, which would include San Francisco and San Jose.

If successful, the initiative would proportionately redistribute California’s debts based on population, end all tax collections and spending by the historic State of California, and create more representative governments to determine and set changes regarding taxes, spending, and other public policies for their new state. This could be beneficial to the struggling San Joaquin Valley whose residents have to assume their share of the state’s $132 billion aggregate debt total and also pay the nation’s highest marginal income tax rate, 13.3 percent. The new Central California state could adjust its taxes according to its economic conditions.

As appealing (or unappealing) as the “Six California” initiative is, and as practical (or impractical) as it may sound, at least two major drawbacks could hurt Californians more than help them.

First, and the day’s most pressing topic, water. The Huffington Post’s Lydia O’Connor pointed out that under Draper’s plan, water intended for use in Los Angeles would have to pass through three other states — Jefferson, North California, and Central California — before it ever reached Los Angeles’ West California. This would raise the prospect that a governor in one of the intermediary states could, in the interest of his constituents, divert water for their purposes.

Second, many prospective university students would be shut out of California’s renowned university system. Since there are no University of California campuses in Redding or Eureka, cities in Jefferson, they wouldn’t qualify for the $11,000 instate tuition. If they chose to attend UCLA, they would matriculate at the $38,000 fee. The same tuition discrepancy exists for Cal State universities — $6,500 versus $18,000.

Between today and the July 18 signature collection deadline, expect to see controversy and heated debate between Six States advocates and detractors. My own opinion: If it gets the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot — no easy task — Six Californias will pass.

Joe Guzzardi is retired from the Lodi Unified School District. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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