Siskiyou County wants to secede from California

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to pursue secession from California, in order to join with other local counties to form a new state called Jefferson.

Which begs the question: What do we know about Siskiyou County? First of all, it’s here:


At 6,347 square miles, Siskiyou County is larger than Rhode Island, Delaware or Connecticut.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, its population of 44,154 accounts for about 0.1 percent of California’s population; it’s about 78.6 percent white, 11.1 percent Latino, 4.5 percent American Indian/Alaskan native, 1.5 percent black and 1.3 percent Asian.

About 88.8 percent of the county’s adults are at least high school graduates (more than the state’s 80.8 percent) but only about 22.3 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher (less than the state’s 30.2 percent).

Siskiyou County’s median income is $37,865, compared to California’s $61,632, and its percentage of people below the poverty level from 2007 through 2011 – 18.4 percent – is well higher than California’s 14.4 percent.

The state Employment Development Department reports Siskiyou County’s unemployment rate in July was 11.5 percent, well above California’s 9.3 percent rate. It doesn’t have a very diverse economic base; almost half of its major employers are public agencies and institutions.

The Secretary of State’s office reports that about 41 percent of Siskiyou County’s registered voters are Republicans, 32 percent are Democrats and 20 percent state no party preference. Although supervisors are elected on a nonpartisan basis, three board members are Republicans, one’s a Democrat and one has no party preference; it was the independent who voted against secession.

All of which is moot, considering that secession can only happen legally with consent from the state and federal governments (not gonna happen) and Siskiyou County doesn’t seem to have the standing army it would need to secede by other-than-legal means.

That said, since they’re blue-skying up there, let’s blue-sky too. It seems to me that Siskiyou and its fellow Jeffersonian counties in California and Oregon – though undeniably hurting economically under their current circumstances – would have a much harder time on their collective own than either existing state would have in their absence. Thoughts?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • So what could they do to make this happen? Put it on the ballot statewide as a referendum?

  • Josh Richman

    No, the Legislature would have to vote to allow the county to secede. Click here to read the declaration that the supervisors approved.

  • Felix Hunziker

    Annex themselves to Oregon

  • For Liberty

    Secession will release them from the over burdening regulations coming out of Sacramento. The relief from burdening regulations could be extremely healthy for their economy. It would be an interesting experiment to see how a true free market could turn things around.

  • Elwood

    The lamestream media is treating this as news.

    The idea of a State of Jefferson has been around since the late 1930s

    They seemed to be making some headway when the whole thing was derailed by WWII.

  • JohnW

    As Elwood notes, variations of this have been kicking around for ages. Northern Colorado is on the same kick, fired up because of Colorado’s new gun control laws.

    Not gonna happen, but I’m sure the GOP would love to have some more Wyomings — with the population of Oakland but the same U.S. Senate representation as California or Texas, and disproportionate representation in the Electoral College.

    They certainly don’t want to break away from the U.S., since they get more in benefits from the feds than they pay in taxes. Borrowing from Paul Ryan’s VP campaign, you might call the proposed new state “The Taker State.”

    As for whining about regulation from Sacramento, give me a break. They don’t have much of an economy up there to regulate. And given the median income, I doubt very many people pay state income taxes. They would have to have higher taxes than they pay now to operate independently.

  • jskdn

    A state with 44,154 residents, having two U.S. Senators and one representative; yeah right. Now if they were talking about becoming part of Oregon, that wouldn’t greatly affect the rest of the country, if still a pipe dream.

  • Publius


    “As for whining about regulation from Sacramento, give me a break.”

    Are you saying that Ca. does not have a problem with over regulating? So when some disagrees with the regulations passed down from Sacramento they are whining? At the risk of sounding like a whiner I will tell you based on first hand experience that California is not a business friendly State and suffers from over regulation.

    “They would have to have higher taxes than they pay now to operate independently.”

    How do you figure. Do you think they would keep all of the welfare benefits, pension obligations, green energy boondoggle kick backs, High Speed Rail, and the outrageous bureaucratic overhead? I believe it would be a tough transition at first but in the long run I believe that the tax rate would be lower and the economy would improve. Jefferson would replace Nevada, Arizona, and Texas as the place for Ca. corporations to relocate to.

    It would be nice, but I agree sadly that it will never happen. One can always hope.

  • JohnW


    To the contrary, I think California is way over-regulated and that it has a real impact on economic growth. I believe in regulation. It is the states, not the feds that have the policing powers. But my view is that 20% of the regulations do 80% of the good and that the other 80% of regulations are either mostly worthless at best or harmful at worst.

    My point was that I doubt the rural areaa of the state are as affected by those regulations as the parts of the state where most of the business activity is concentrated. However, agriculture would be an exception to that.

    As for taxes, the basis for my prediction is that California’s progressive tax rates are such that anybody in the lower middle income range actually pays less than they would in, say, Kansas or Colorado. So, at least in the income tax category, people who now pay nothing would pay something in a state that doesn’t have the high rollers to pick up the tab. But you might be right when it comes to other types of taxes, such as sales taxes. But I doubt it, because conservatives tend to favor sales taxes over income taxes.

  • For Liberty

    “They would have to have higher taxes than they pay now to operate independently”……I guess you don’t understand the principles of a free market. Where is it in economics 101 where is it says you have to have higher taxes in order to operate as a community independent of some government entity?

    “They don’t have much of an economy up there to regulate.” Please do a little more homework on this area of our state, before you make any more comments like this. You may want to start with the below listed link:


  • JohnW

    Some other time, we can debate what “free market” really means and who knows what about that and economics in general, including the concept of externalities that self-described free-marketeers love to ignore.

    I watched the entire video. Learned a lot about the hydroelectric dam removal issue, or at least one side of it. But it didn’t tell me anything about the economy up there that I didn’t already know. I lived in the Pacific Northwest and know all about the demise of the timber industry. In fact, one of the people featured early in the video made almost the exact same statement that I did about the economy. The stuff they are griping about in the video is driven as much by the feds as by the state. So, breaking away from California doesn’t make a regulation-free utopia for them. But you’ll get no argument from me about California’s multi-layered, duplicative, red tape-laden regulatory vortex.

    I chuckled when one of the people featured talked about how getting more salmon out of the river wouldn’t do any good, because the fish all migrate further North due to ocean warming. I guess those conservatives up there must be reading Al Gore’s material.

    As for my speculation that they would actually end up with higher taxes, I’ll stand by that. They still have to do schools, roads, law enforcement, fire protection, hospitals etc. Since they don’t have much in the way of higher education up there, I guess they would be paying out-of-state tuition to get educated in California. They receive more in state support for those things than they generate in tax revenue.