By Jennifer Chaussee
San Francisco (Reuters) – A long-shot effort to break California into six separate states got a boost on Monday, when the billionaire venture capitalist behind the proposal said he had gathered enough signatures to place it on the ballot in two years.
Timothy Draper, a founder of a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that has invested in Twitter, Skype and Tesla, among other companies, has been agitating for months for a ballot initiative to chop the most populous U.S. state into smaller entities.
“It’s important because it will help us create a more responsive, more innovative and more local government, and that ultimately will end up being better for all of Californians,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the campaign. “The idea … is to create six states with responsive local governments – states that are more representative and accountable to their constituents.”
Salazar said Monday that the campaign had gathered more than the roughly 808,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the November, 2016 ballot. Draper and other supporters plan to file the signatures with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Tuesday.
But the plan has raised bipartisan hackles across the state, and opponents say it stands little chance of gaining voter approval. If it does win the support of voters, it must still be passed by Congress, which opponents say is also unlikely.
“This is a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy, and money that will hurt the California brand,” said Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political strategist who has formed the group OneCalifornia with GOP strategist Joe Rodota to fight Draper’s plan. “It has zero chance of passage. But what it does is scare investment away… at a time when the Governor is leading us to an economic comeback.”
Draper’s plan would split the world’s eighth-largest economy along geographic lines.
One state, to be called Silicon Valley, would include the tech hub along with the San Francisco Bay Area. Jefferson, named after the third U.S. president, would encompass the northernmost region. The state capital of Sacramento would be in North California, while South California would be made up of San Diego and the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles.
L.A. itself would be part of a state called West California.
Proponents say the division would help create a more business-friendly environment, solve the state’s water issues, and ease traffic congestion.
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)