Creating a 51st State
by Representative Matt Shea
Would you support the idea of creating a 51st state east of the Cascade Mountains?
Why a 51st state?
As an elected state representative, it's the one issue I hear about the most while visiting residents in the 4th Legislative District. Tired of being bullied by the three main counties in Western Washington (King, Pierce, Snohomish), residents often tell me it's the one thing that would get them excited about state government again.
"But our strength is in our diversity," is the usual argument against even thinking about forming a 51st state with more like-minded people. However, this mantra continues to fall on deaf ears as voters and elected officials from the Puget Sound region continue to run roughshod over their Eastern Washington brethren on everything from increased taxes to overly-aggressive environmental regulations; from efforts to take away citizens' gun rights to mandated funding of abortions; from ignoring our agriculture and natural resource based economy to telling us what to do with our water and dams.
Many of the citizens I talk with have had enough. They feel like a state government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," applies to everyone but the (509) zip code.
Opponents immediately say we'd lose a huge tax base in Western Washington as well as some of the large tech companies located there, which would be true. But they fail to understand that we'd also prioritize government spending instead of saying "yes" to every idea under the sun. We'd be stewards of the land and resources around us and view our abundant agriculture as an asset to be strengthened rather than tolerated.
The fact is, the size and scope of government in "Liberty" would be dramatically smaller and therefore, cheaper and more efficient. It would also attract many businesses INTO THE NEW STATE.
No, we wouldn't agree on everything, but those disagreements would include less cultural bias as no one would feel beholden to the concrete and steel urban jungle of Seattle.
The Spokesman-Review recently ran a story titled, "A 51st state, called Liberty, would have political clout and an ag-based economy." The article mentions my legislation, House Joint Memorial 4000, petitioning for a new state in Eastern Washington. It was cosponsored by Rep. David Taylor from Moxee, and my seatmate, Rep. Bob McCaslin, whose father, the late Sen. Bob McCaslin, sponsored similar legislation in years past.
The Spokesman-Review article does an admirable job of pointing out the potential economic benefits of a 51st state as agriculture, manufacturing (hello, abundant, affordable hydro power), education, trade, government infrastructure, and services would be the stalwarts of our region's economy. Reporter Pia Hallenberg quotes Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace as saying:
"I'd like for us to have a business climate that's more like Idaho, with lower B&O taxes and lower minimum wage. If we had a 51st state we could create an environment that's better for business."Pia's article isn't the first time our region's paper has made positive comments about the idea of a 51st state. Back in 1984, the Spokesman-Review published a large 96-page insert titled, "Columbia: A Paradise Found." The publication created a fictional 51st state called Columbia, consisting of Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana. It was an effort to "examine our environment, our cultural and recreational opportunities, our religion, our politics, and more," as explained by then-publisher William Cowles.
In his introduction message, Cowles goes on to say, "Such a state has been proposed often in the past, though probably no one believes it will every come into being."
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: We hear the common refrain that we are "one Washington" with "common values." Yet some in downtown Seattle also argue that Eastern Washington is full of "hicks and welfare recipients" of the three large Western Washington counties. If that's the case, then why not just let us go? Which is it? The fact is we have vastly differing views of the purpose of government, the economy, moral values, and the constitution. A new state would better reflect and represent both views.
Well, folks. What do you think?
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