Politics & Government

State of Jefferson proponents again try to persuade Plumas County supervisors

Gina Russell of Oroville holds a flag in support of the State of Jefferson in front of the Capitol last August when supporters of a 51st state submitted declarations to withdraw from California, signed by Boards of Supervisors from Siskiyou and Modoc counties.
Gina Russell of Oroville holds a flag in support of the State of Jefferson in front of the Capitol last August when supporters of a 51st state submitted declarations to withdraw from California, signed by Boards of Supervisors from Siskiyou and Modoc counties. Sacramento Bee file

State of Jefferson proponents bombarded the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday with revenue and expense projections, but did not win a commitment to support the proposed 51st state.

In their third appearance before the Plumas board, representatives of the breakaway state outlined a future for the rural county that includes $171 million in property taxes.

It would leave officials with $60 million “for cities, roads – whatever Plumas County deems necessary. The state won’t tell you how to spend that money. You will,” said Steven Baird, a State of Jefferson proponent.

The 90-minute discussion that followed exposed a clearly divided Plumas board.

Supervisor Lori Simpson challenged Baird’s presentation.

“I don't think your figures are right,” she said.

Simpson, who represents the Quincy area, said her constituents are telling her to “get on with the work of the county and quit this nonsense.”

Supervisor Terry Swofford, a Portola business owner, said a silent majority in his eastern Plumas County district supports the State of Jefferson.

Board Chairman Kevin Goss, who owns a pharmacy in Greenville, has watched local businesses decline from a lack of representation, he said.

“We have the natural resources” but the “money and votes are in Los Angeles. Something has to be done,” Goss said.

It was Baird’s fiscal analysis that drew the most public criticism. Cindy Ellsmore called the State of Jefferson financial projections “cursory and unverified.”

If created, the new state’s debt would be “rated as junk bonds,” said Ellsmore, a former Sierra County treasurer and spokeswoman for Keep It California, a nonpartisan organization opposed to separation from California.

Eileen Spencer panned Baird’s financial outline as “a well-rehearsed fact-free presentation.” The State of Jefferson is becoming known as “a sad old joke,” said Spencer, who lives in neighboring Lassen County.

Other speakers endorsed the 51st state, blaming an increase in state regulations for a declining local economy.

“More and more regulations are coming down on us,” said Curtis Hartwig, owner of two local businesses.

The secessionist movement aims to get the backing of enough Northern California counties to convince state and federal legislators that the current system of representation is unfair to rural residents. Baird and other Jefferson supporters are collecting declarations of support this year and plan to craft state legislation in 2016.

So far, five California counties have endorsed the breakaway state. Voters in Del Norte County rejected it. In Lassen and Lake counties, the issue is scheduled to appear on countywide ballots next year.

Nine counties in Oregon were part of an earlier proposal, but Baird said secessionists in California “cannot do anything for Oregon.”

JEFFERSON, BY COUNTY

Where the secession movement stands in California counties:

▪ Five counties backed by their boards of supervisors – Modoc, Siskiyou, Glenn, Sutter and Yuba – have endorsed the breakaway state.

▪ Tehama County voters approved the nonbinding referendum in June 2014; Del Norte County voters rejected it.

▪ Lassen County will submit the question to voters in June 2016.

▪ Lake County will take the issue to voters next year after its supervisors backed the plan in February.

▪ Plumas County supervisors have not decided on the secession proposal.

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