The Two States of South Cal

I’m in Fresno on November 1, talking on Valley Public Radio (at 9:00 a.m and 7:00 p.m., 89.3 FM Fresno and 89.1 FM Bakersfield), and at a Zócalo Public Square event at 6:30 p.m. at the Fresno Art Museum. (You can still RSVP through the link.) The subject is whether California is too big and, if so, what to do about it.

I’ve previously addressed one of the suggestions—splitting the state to create a new state of South California. But I thought it would be useful to present the data here in a more accessible format.

Although some in California seem not to know it, one of the major effects of state government is to transfer tax dollars from the coast, where California generates most of its wealth and income, to the less affluent interior of the state. The chart below shows that the part of California state-splitters would like to carve out as South California has a disproportionate population of those who receive the primary services of state government—education, medication, incarceration—but pays less than a proportional share of taxes. A new state of South California would be a fiscal basket case.

But that’s not all. As the chart below shows, South California would have an even larger economic and fiscal gap between its remaining coast—Orange and San Diego counties—and its interior.

The chart below shows this even more clearly. Inland South California would need the bulk of public services, coastal South California would have to deliver most of the tax revenue.


In other words, South California would be both broke and sharply divided. It does not look like the makings of a happy marriage.