What would we do if California were suddenly split into six states?
We’d have to change the lyrics and title to every California song ever written — Snoop Dogg (excuse me, Lion), Katy Perry, Eagles, Phantom Planet. We’d have to change the the American flag. Life as we Californians know it would be over. Kinda.
Tim Draper, 55-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist known for making huge investments in technology like Skype and Hotmail, recently proposed a plan to split the giant state of California into six bite-sized states. And on Tuesday, February 18th, California Secretary of the State Debra Bowen gave the okay for Draper to start petitioning to put the proposal on the ballot in California’s November 2016 election.
Draper has 150 days (until July 18th) to collect the signatures of 807,615 registered voters.
Draper argues that the current state of California is ungovernable, and the government in Sacramento cannot possibly keep up with the needs of the diverse population living across the vast state. If CA were cut in six, residents would be better heard and represented by more localized state governments, closer to the population they are actually serving.
Considering that California is home to 38 million people and the fact that if California were its own nation, it would be the eight largest economy in the world, his argument does not seem unfounded.
The current California would become South California, North California, West California, Central California, Jefferson, and the Silicon Valley.
Six may seem like a fairly arbitrary number, but Draper explains that the initial state lines were drawn with population, geography, and regional concerns in mind. According to the proposal, counties would have a grace period after the division to vote to join another neighboring California state.
Although Draper’s concerns for the current state of California (hello massive debt and extensive furloughs) are valid, the idea of splitting the state in six creates its own spool of questions and problems.
For one, California’s vastness has left a huge gap between the haves and have-nots. Would splitting the state into six leave some states worse off in terms of finance and resources, or would it give everyone a chance to start a new and thrive? Draper argues that the current system is clearly not working if these gaps exist, but that does not mean splitting the state will necessarily improve conditions.
Another big question asks how the division would impact the nation as a whole. No longer would we be the 50 states, but (small shudder) the 55! How would this change affect the balance of seats in the House and Senate? In terms of splitting along partisan lines, this could seriously sway Washington towards either side (given voting trends lately, likely democratic). And for the House with a fixed number of seats, who would lose out? Either another state would lose representation or one of the new states could receive only one seat.
And oh, questions of the national budget! California state tax and spending plans would cease to exist, with the debt being divided among the six new states. Elected officials of each new state would determine new fiscal policies for their own state. In terms of federal spending and tax collection, the budget may need reconsideration to apply current policies to a country with more states.
From here on out, Draper and his grass roots efforts may face the uphill battle of passing this plan first by the California legislature and then through U.S. Congress.
Most importantly, what would happen to all the state pride! If there are six Californias, which state will have the most bounce?