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Editorial: Good reasons not to join State of Jefferson

(Medford) Mail Tribune, June 5:

Voters in two Northern California counties have declined to join the thundering herd calling for the formation of a new “state of Jefferson,” proving that common sense has not entirely departed from the region. Meanwhile, most of the clamor for secession seems to be coming from south of the state line, meaning Southern Oregonians apparently understand the futility of a gesture that would leave them worse off than they are now.

So far, boards of supervisors (what they call county commissioners down there) in Siskiyou, Modoc, Glenn and Yuba counties have adopted resolutions to explore the idea of seceding from the state of California. On Tuesday, voters in Del Norte County rejected a secession ballot measure, and Siskiyou County voters said no to a measure renaming their county the Republic of Jefferson. A secession resolution passed in Tehama County.

The sentiment behind the recently rediscovered movement is not hard to understand. The predominantly rural counties are suffering financially after the decline of the timber industry, and voters feel ignored by lawmakers in Sacramento, where the state legislature is dominated by representatives of big-city districts who focus on big-city problems.

Anger at the federal government plays a role, too — huge swaths of public land rich in resources are controlled by Washington, D.C. Local residents are frustrated that the good-paying jobs that land once supported are largely gone, the victim of environmental protection laws and lawsuits.

Leaving aside the fact that secession would have to be approved in both state legislatures and in Congress — a virtual impossibility — there is one big problem with the concept of carving a new state out of portions of Southern Oregon and Northern California: money.

Even if secession were approved, the new state would instantly become the poorest in the country when the flow of dollars from Sacramento and Salem dried up.

The counties potentially included in the state of Jefferson receive more funding from their respective state governments than they pay in taxes. What’s more, as Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor noted, this county gets more federal money as part of Oregon than it would as a less-populated state.

Thinking the new state would just make up the difference with all those public-land resources now “locked up” by bureaucracy and regulation? Think again.

That bureaucracy and regulation is federal — and the land would remain federal, even within a new state.

All of this could explain why the secession idea hasn’t gained much traction north of the border, but not why so many Northern Californians have embraced it.

Maybe it’s something in the water.

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