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51st state? California politician pushes secession plan

By Michael Martinez and Thelma Gutierrez, CNN
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Some counties to secede from California?
  • A Republican supervisor in Riverside County is fed up with California's financial woes
  • He has drawn plans for 13 counties to form the 51st state
  • The would-be state's name: South California
  • A summit of the local state leaders will consider the idea

Riverside, California (CNN) -- A conservative county supervisor in Southern California wants to form the 51st state by seceding the region from California, saying the state's problems require "radical" solutions.

"Listen, I knew I'd be criticized. I learned in my tenure of being a politician for 19 years, sometimes you have to do radical things to get people's attention," Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said on CNN Thursday.

"We have hit a nerve with citizens who are just fed up with business as usual in the state," Stone said. "I'm talking about a secession plan from the state of California."

This week, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors gave the OK to Stone to hold a summit of California's local leaders to discuss remedies for the state's long list of woes -- including secession.

But the county board stopped short of endorsing Stone's secessionist plan by insisting no taxpayer money be used for the conference.

Stone has come up with a name for the new state: South California. It would be composed of 13 largely Republican counties, most of which are inland along the Nevada and Arizona state lines. The plan would exclude Los Angeles County, but would include Orange and San Diego Counties, both on the coast.

Stone has a long list of grievances against the state and its legislators: high taxes and fees, inability to reform welfare programs, high unemployment and excessive regulations.

"What the state has done is they've been balancing their budgets on the backs of our local coffers. They've been stealing our sales tax, property tax," Stone said. "The bottom line for me and my constituents is jobs. We are sending jobs out of the state of California by the train load."

Riverside County is among the hardest hit communities by the recession and mortgage meltdown, leaving many communities pockmarked with vacant homes, Stone said.

"We are the foreclosure capital of the world," Stone asserted. "We have some areas of the county that have 25% unemployment. The average in Riverside County is about 15%."

Stone's plan seems a long shot, one analyst said. There have been at least 27 efforts for secession within parts of California since the 1800s, and none has been successful.

Robert Melsh, a political science instructor at Mount San Jacinto College in San Jacinto, California, which is in Riverside County, said Stone's plan stunned him, largely because of the high cost of putting a secessionist plan before voters. He called it a "scare tactic."

"Insanity," Melsh said. "I mean this is major surgery where we need a Band-Aid.

"It takes millions of dollars to get the signatures necessary to put up an initiative," Melsh added.

Melsh also raised the question of getting a 51st state's government up and running.

"Where is he going to put the capitol? Disneyland?" Melsh said.

Stone, a pharmacist and owner of an innovative compounding pharmacy, said he drew the lines for a new state by picking 13 counties that were contiguous and fiscally conservative or moderate.

A date for the summit of local leaders has yet to be scheduled, he said.

CNN's Traci Tamura contributed to this report.