Our View: State of Jefferson proposition not based in reality
When a group of residents hand-delivered more than 5,000 signatures to the Nevada County Elections Office Thursday, the action put in motion a process that will likely result in the State of Jefferson being brought before voters as a local ballot measure.
We understand the reasons those who support the creation of a State of Jefferson share in making their case for a 51st state — largely that Nevada County and its neighbors in the north state lack representation in Sacramento and in Washington D.C., that we underutilize our natural resources as economic engines and that the state of California residents and businesses are overtaxed and overregulated.
But the suggestion that the State of Jefferson would solve the issues does not seem to be one based in reality. Even if Nevada County voters —who will foot the bill for the measure — were to vote in favor, the approval would simply be symbolic.
So what’s the point?
The question — shall the County of Nevada separate from the State of California to join a new state to be created? — would have no binding effect if it passed at the polls. Instead, as The Union reported this week, it would act as leverage for Jefferson supporters, urging the Board of Supervisors to eventually pass a resolution in support of the new state.
If that’s the goal, that would require an about-face from the current supervisors, who made clear in the Jan. 15 “Friday Memo” from County CEO Rick Haffey that “The County of Nevada has not taken any action on this issue and has no plans to take action,” Haffey stated. “It is not something the Board of Supervisors is considering.” That statement came largely in response to media coverage of State of Jefferson event at the Capitol, which incorrectly counted Nevada County among the counties that support the movement.
The supervisors stance, with which we fully agree, might be based partly in research provided by Haffey in his May 2015memo to supervisors, offering a comparison among some potential “Jefferson” counties, which among other aspects showed Nevada County with the lowest unemployment rate, the highest per capita income, along with lower crime rates and jail populations. State of Jefferson proponents, who made a presentation before the Board of Supervisors days later in May, questioned the CEO’s motives for sharing that information prior to the group’s presentation.
Perhaps, Haffey felt it necessary due to the lack of actual concrete data and plans put forth by Jefferson supporters. Although there are multiple websites advocating for the formation of the State of Jefferson, information on how the proposed 51st state would be financially viable is lacking. At http://www.soj51.net, supporters have posted a spreadsheet, outlining the revenue and expenditures of the counties considered, and suggest the bottom line would produce an $8.3 billion surplus. However, the explanation key states, “This model uses the current California tax rate structure without any corporate income taxes or other fees charged by state or counties. This proves Jefferson is viable and has the ability to sustain itself from day one.”
Yet California’s current tax rate structure is one of the reasons supporters say we must create a new state. If taxes were lowered, as supporters claim will be the case, would the revenue be adequate to be fiscally viable? That’s not clear from the spreadsheet, nor from the “Model Definition” accompanying it, that falls short of details on the figures provided.
The county revenues listed are from the current fiscal year, but how much of each county’s revenue comes from the state of California? How would social services, which the site states would be “revamped” be impacted without grants from the state of California? At what level would our nonprofit organizations, which number in hundreds in Nevada County alone, be able to provide services to the community that are assisted through state funding?
The answers to those questions, and more, should be shared in advance of voters making such a decision. To date, supporters have not fully made their case on how the State of Jefferson would sustain itself.
But even if Nevada County voters approve the nonbinding resolution, and county supervisors were to change their stance, there is essentially zero chance that such a separation would ever be approved by the State of California — so highly dependent upon north state resources, such as water in the midst of a four-year drought — or the United States congress, which has yet to grant statehood to the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico.
Supporters would suggest that even if the measure fails, they have helped bring to light the issues they outline. That is certainly true. And the State of Jefferson movement is among many other evident examples of Americans expressing frustration with their government all across the country.
But we believe solving problems requires taking a seat at the table, not leaving it altogether.
The weekly Our View column represents the opinions of The Union Editorial Board. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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