As Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone gets set to detail his reasons for wanting the county and a dozen others to break away from California to form a new state, reactions to his idea are mixed.
Stone, who represents the 3rd District, filed a five-page memorandum that will be on the Board of Supervisors' agenda for its regulary scheduled July 12 meeting. The memo outlines actions Stone says should be taken to create America's 51st state.
The supervisor prefaced his secession plan with a description of things that have, in his opinion, been going wrong in California and pushing the state closer to the brink of financial ruin.
Stone has invited Riverside, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare counties to participate in the new state.
To date, however, none of the counties have publicly stepped up to participate in the offer, and none of the Riverside County Supervisors have publicly backed Stone’s idea.
Stone’s secession announcement came after the state budget was signed off by Gov. Jerry Brown June 30. Included in that budget package was Senate Bill 89, which has stripped significant general fund revenues from four new Riverside County cities, including Wildomar.
During a July 1 unofficial press conference at his Murrieta-based pharmacy, Stone told Patch that the bill was the final push behind his secession announcement.
“SB 89 was absolutely the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “It was in a fit of anger I did something dramatic.”
Three Wildomar city leaders – Mayor Marsha Swanson, Mayor Pro Tem Ben Benoit, and Councilman Tim Walker -- joined Stone at the July 1 press conference. to read about it.
During a special Wildomar City Council meeting July 7, two Wildomar residents, Gil Rasmussen and Sheryl Ade, criticized the three Wildomar officials for taking part in Stone’s “ridiculous plan.”
After the city council meeting, however, Mayor Marsha Swanson said council members attended the unofficial conference to bring attention to the city’s budget crisis. Under SB 89, Wildomar is losing $1.8 million in revenues and is now scrambling to cut expenditures from an already lean budget. to read about the budget crisis.
“It got people to look at SB 89,” Swanson said of the press conference with Stone.
Like Rasmussen and Ade, however, some see Stone’s secession idea as a divergence.
Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran, told City News Service last week that Stone was engaging in a “monumental waste of taxpayer dollars.''
“Most people are normal and will view this as a very strange publicity stunt that will, mercifully, not go any further,'' Duran said. “It's clearly a joke.''
Meanwhile, Stone continues to outline his plan. He cited a survey showing that California is ranked dead last in business-friendliness nationally and named a number of companies that have moved operations outside the state to escape high taxation and regulation.
“As a result of these thousands of jobs leaving our state, those citizens waiting for this economic cycle to turn are in for a very big disappointment,'' the supervisor wrote. “It has been estimated that many businesses can relocate to Texas and expect to save 20 to 40 percent! What will remain here is a 'welfare state.'''
Stone maintains that the state's unfunded public pension liabilities -- which a Stanford University study last year estimated as high as $500 billion – are unsustainable and will only worsen as lawmakers and the governor cater to union interests.
According to Stone, state taxpayers are footing the bill for medical and welfare services for illegal immigrants, subsidizing their college tuition, while legal residents pay their own way.
The supervisor described California as “too big to govern,'' a laggard in K-12 education, with one-third of the nation's welfare recipients and only 12 percent of its population.
He decried the state's raids on funds designated for infrastructure improvements and local programs -- without resolving multi-year budget shortfalls.
“It is time to take corrective and decisive action,'' he said.
Stone envisions a part-time legislature for the new state, with lawmakers meeting for three months every two years -- like Texas -- and earning $600 per month instead of $400 per day. He said the 51st state’s constitution should include a balanced budget provision and property tax protections, akin to those guaranteed under Proposition 13.
Stone is seeking the board's approval for the Executive Office to call a conference at the Riverside Convention Center and invite representatives from all of the counties and cities proposed in the new state to debate the issue and its ramifications. --City News Service contributed to this report.