The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Wednesday to place a measure on the November 2022 ballot asking residents if they wish to possibly secede from California.
In the past, many Californian counties, as well as the state itself, have looked into splitting up the state due to cultural, monetary, and other differences, including some measures simply saying that the state was too big. A failed 2016 measure that would have split California into 6 states and Proposition 9, a proposed proposition that would have split California into 3 states in 2018 that was stopped before a vote by the state Supreme Court, have been among the most recent noteworthy attempts.
However, in recent years, the question has come up in many counties across the state once again. Many have been upset with state laws and measures that have raised taxes for programs they would not benefit from, started hurting many businesses with increased regulations, and that have unfairly divided and allotted money between different counties.
In San Bernardino County, the last issue has been a major factor, with many county lawmakers and residents upset over owed state and federal funds. According to David Wert, a spokesman for the County, San Bernardino County ranks only 36th out of 56 counties for per-capita revenue received from state and federal governments, despite being the fifth largest by population within the state and the largest county by land – double in size over the next largest, Inyo County. By land size, San Bernardino County is also larger than nine states, and by population, 15 states, including New Mexico and Idaho.
With that study, resident grief, and a push by local businesspeople, the Board of Supervisors held a vote to put the question of “Do the citizens of San Bernardino County want the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to study all options to obtain its fair share of state and federal resources, up to and including secession?” on the ballot.
Possible secession measure in San Bernardino County
Many at the meeting were strongly against secession, reasoning that residents still got enough coming back through state projects and other means. Others were more moderate, with many, including many Supervisors, saying that they were against secession but were very much for looking into ways for the county to get their fair share of tax dollars in.
“I do think we have to look at anything we can do to enhance services for our residents,” said Supervisor Joe Baca Jr. “I’m not in favor of seceding. I’m proud to be from California. I love California.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman agreed, explaining that “If the worst thing that comes out of this is a study that will be ammunition for our state representatives to fight for more money for us that would be acceptable.”
Finally, some pushed for full secession during the meeting, citing state issues.
Overall, however, the vast majority agreed that, at the very least, finding how the County should be getting their fair share of tax dollars was something that should be looked into.
“San Bernardino is a large county in both terms of size and population, with many pieces of critical infrastructure,” explained Barbara Rodriguez, an accountant who assists in state and local fund tax breakdowns, to the Globe on Thursday. “And the people there are feeling like they are being gipped. Like most counties, they are looking for more money coming in, and seeing their county be so low on the list has really incensed them.”
“I’m not convinced that secession is really serious at this point, as it’s probably just there to have all options on the table, but some of this nations biggest crises and conflicts and political changes have had taxes be a focal part of it all. Right now thy just want to look into ways to make it fair, but the fact that it is still there in the ballot measure is turning some heads.”
If the County votes yes and later approves of secession, both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress would need to approve of the move before it would legally happen.
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