The people behind California’s latest effort to leave the United States are confident this time and are preparing to fan out across the Golden State to collect signatures for a 2018 ballot initiative.
It would repeal a provision of the California Constitution stating that the state is “an inseparable part of the United States ... up to and including agreement establishing California as a fully independent country,” the ballot language reads.
“We feel like this current initiative is more feasible and will hold up more to scrutiny and legal challenges,” said Steve Gonzales, a member of the group California Freedom Coalition. A first attempt fizzled and was withdrawn.
Gonzales said the group is beginning to raise money to hire signature gatherers. It has until Jan. 22 to collect 585,407 signatures, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
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Still, secession is a long shot. It faces legal and constitutional challenges, and would have “unknown, potentially major fiscal effects,” according to an assessment from the the state Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance. And it would cost at least $1.25 million per year in additional state costs to fund a new independent commission that would oversee research and make recommendations on “ways of increasing California’s autonomy and independence,” according to the ballot language.
It directs the governor to work with California’s 53 members of the House and both U.S. senators to “continually negotiate greater autonomy from the federal government.” The idea appears directed at retaining California’s share of federal tax revenue and operating its own independent government. Instead of spending money on military operations overseas, for example, the idea is to boost state funding for infrastructure repair, schools and more. Backers also say it’s about representation.
“We feel that California has been neglected and left out of the political process for many many decades,” Gonzales said. “With current politics the way they are, clearly there’s a recognition that many in the United States have disdain for Californians. They call us ‘out of control.’ So this is a time for us to take back those tax dollars and really unleash the potential California has.”
Gonzales pointed to the state’s total economic output. California’s economy ranks sixth largest in the world, according to economists. The state also sends more dollars to the federal government than any other, including New York, according to a July analysis by the California Budget and Policy Center.
State taxpayers contribute one in every eight dollars of total federal tax revenue, and California’s economy comprises nearly one-seventh of the nation’s total economic output, the analysis found.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional for states to unilaterally secede from the U.S., and any move allowing secession would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports