State legislators blast San Bernardino County secession measure

California lawmakers who represent San Bernardino County are not happy about a new ballot measure suggesting the county is not getting its fair share of state revenue.

The measure, approved by the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Aug. 9, will ask voters this November if they want to direct the board to “study and advocate for all options to obtain the county’s fair share of State funding up to and including secession from the State of California.”

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

Whatever voters say in November, state Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Colton, state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, in a letter Tuesday let the board know they’re not happy about the measure.

“We are shocked with the reasoning behind this initiative, concerned about the cost to taxpayers to essentially ask local officials to do their jobs, and disappointed in the narrative being created regarding our community,” the letter reads in part.

“As collective members of the state legislature, we have worked hard to ensure that we bring resources to the County of San Bernardino, cities within the county, and nonprofit organizations supporting the community,” the legislators’ letter continues. “In 2022 alone, we collectively brought over $65 million in directly allocated budget asks to the Inland Empire. In 2020, nearly one-third of San Bernardino County revenues consisted of state dollars.”

The question proposed by the measure, the lawmakers wrote, “disregards the work being done every day to bring more resources to San Bernardino County.”

San Bernardino County Supervisor and Board Chair Curt Hagman sits during the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors meeting in San Bernardino on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman says the measure is necessary — and serious.

“The ballot question adopted by the Board of Supervisors is about producing meaningful data and effective engagement with the state,” Hagman said in a written statement released by the county Wednesday morning. “The secession last-resort is an expression of our resolve, an illustration of the seriousness of the matter, and an acknowledgment of the deep concern of our residents and the community leaders who have spoken out.”

The three legislators, however, suggest the measure is a waste of time and public money.

“Public resources, including staff time being paid for with taxpayer dollars, are being used to not only draft this item but to put it on the ballot in November,” the legislators’ letter reads. “Advocating for more resources is something that can be, and should be, done by the supervisors today without this measure.”

Meanwhile, the notion that secession is possible, should a county study determine that’s the best course of action, gives voters false hope, the legislators say.

“As you are well aware, in order for the county to secede from the state of California, a majority of voters from both the State Legislature and Congress is needed. These are votes that any political expert would tell you are unlikely to be obtained in the first place,” the letter reads in part. “The suggestion of ‘secession’ is not only divisive, but it is an attempt to present a false narrative.”

The last time a U.S. state split from an existing state was 159 years ago, when West Virginia left Virginia over Appalachian residents’ opposition to slavery in 1863.

More on the San Bernardino County secession measure
San Bernardino County supervisors urged to secede from California
San Bernardino County secession measure advances to November 2022 ballot
San Bernardino County sheriff, DA weigh in on ‘fair share’ measure

The legislators end their letter by telling the board they have budgetary work of their own to do, but they are willing to work together to get more resources for San Bernardino County.

“Rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on a ballot measure that does not have a clear outcome, we encourage the San Bernardino County Supervisors to work with state and federal representatives to continue to not only bring back more resources to the Inland Empire, but make better use of the resources already provided,” the letter concludes.

View this document on Scribd