A state of debate: An independent California would not flounder like Texas

By Louis J. Marinelli, State Assembly Candidate, California’s 80th Assembly District

I am excited to see that the student body at Baylor University is engaged with my plan for California sovereignty and wanted to submit this response to an article recently printed in the Lariat concerning California’s future as a nation within our nation.

As Mr. Vining points out, it is true that California would no longer participate in congressional or presidential elections if it were to obtain its sub-national sovereignty. With a population of nearly 40 million, however, California is afforded equal but not fair representation in Congress under the two senators per state rule, a debate which roots back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

A bicameral legislature was adopted by compromise at that convention, providing for one chamber of proportional representation, and another chamber of equal representation. This Connecticut Compromise narrowly passed by a 5-4-1 vote. By no means were the founding fathers in any more agreement over the fairness of this system then many of us in California are today.

By the way, the state most directly affected by this unfair system is my state. To make matters worse, California had no delegates at this constitutional convention, nor a vote in the adoption of this system, and while the Congress voted to admit California into the Union in 1850, the People of California never held a referendum on American statehood as the people of every other state did.

And presidential elections. Did you know the last time California’s electoral votes made a difference in a presidential election was 1876? That’s because California’s electoral votes have always gone to the victorious candidate who won by a large enough margin that California’s electoral votes wouldn’t have changed the result. Or, California’s electoral votes went to the losing candidate who lost by such a large margin that California’s electoral votes wouldn’t have made a difference either.

And on taxes. Yes, on the one hand California would need to dramatically increase its state income taxes to function as a national government. On the other hand, Californians would no longer have to pay federal income taxes.

In that way, even if the California state income taxes were, say, tripled to make up for lost federal payouts, Californians would still pay fewer net taxes overall. This is because California is a donor state, and loses nearly a quarter of its federal tax dollars every year to states that receive two to three dollars in federal payouts for each dollar paid in federal taxes.

To put this in perspective, last year Californians collectively paid $400 billion dollars in federal taxes and received federal payouts totaling approximately $300 billion. This has been the case for decades. In fact, in the last 15 years California has lost $903 billion in federal taxes we paid into the system.

Considering our entire state budget this year is about $115 billion dollars, we can estimate that California has lost eight years of state budgets as a result of this problem – a problem we are powerless to change with only two senators pitted against the senators from the beneficiary states receiving our tax dollars.

Mr. Vining points out that California would have to assume great new (expensive) responsibilities regarding the upkeep of our roads, highways, and bridges. But what he may not be aware of is that our state just recently implemented a new 12-cent per gallon excise tax on gasoline because federal highway funds have dried up.

Mr. Vining points out that California would have to deal with rising unemployment rates. But what he may not be aware of is that California’s 6.3% unemployment rate is as high as it is today largely due to the economic recession of 2008 caused by American economic policies and the Republican Party’s deregulation of Wall Street under the George W. Bush presidency.

Mr. Vining mentions illegal immigration. The problem of “illegal immigration” exists as a result of American immigration policies and Washington’s refusal to enact immigration reform. But what Mr. Vining also may not be aware of is that California’s agricultural economy, which supplies the United States with so much of its fruits and vegetables, is heavily dependent on undocumented workers. If California had the authority to handle its own immigration policies, we could institute a guest worker program for these workers, provide documents to other undocumented immigrants which make up ten percent of our workforce, and eliminate “illegal immigration” in California.

Lastly, Mr. Vining mentions California’s state debt. Firstly, $428 billion dollars in debt is nothing compared to the $18 trillion dollars of debt held by the United States. Secondly, California passes balanced budgets and this year put some cash away into a rainy day fund. The same could not be said of the United States.

The point is many of our problems in California are rooted in Washington, D.C. If California obtained the authority to levy its own taxes, make its own laws, and establish its own relations abroad while at the same time remaining part of the American family, it would be not only a good thing for the people of California, but just as importantly, it will be a good thing for the people of this whole country.