Fairness in State Funding: Is San Bernardino County Receiving Its Share?

Fairness in State Funding: Is San Bernardino County Receiving Its Share?
Photo by Rio Space / Unsplash

If the county is getting short-changed, the threat of secession from California looms

In November 2016, San Bernardino County voters approved Measure EE, a proposal that gives the San Bernardino County elected representatives the power to study and advocate for all options to obtain the county's fair share of state funding, including secession from the State of California.

More than three months after this initiative, the county has officially started studying the issue.

The county's board of supervisors has directed its CEO to research state funding and resources received by the county and report back to supervisors. The board has also assigned Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman to be its liaison on the issue to those outside county government.

The delays in getting the study started were due to waiting for the election to be certified, holidays, and the blizzard that struck the county's mountain communities in late February.

Learning how to budgeting

San Bernardino County is seeking to hire a consulting firm with expertise in state and federal funding to work with county staff to “determine whether and to what degree San Bernardino County is not receiving its fair share of support.”

County officials had earlier tried to quantify how much compensation the county was getting in comparison to other counties by looking at how much money each of California's 56 counties gets, per capita, from the state and federal governments.

According to this data set taken from the California controller, San Bernardino County was ranked 36th, ahead of Sonoma (45th), Santa Barbara (52nd), and Orange (55th) counties but behind Los Angeles County, which was ranked 28th.

However, County officials and Measure EE's proponents believe that there are disparities in funding, due to either outdated formulas or discretionary decisions on the part of state officials.

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According to Guzman-Hurtado, specific tasks for the consultants include:

  • Quantify what San Bernardino County’s “fair share” of state and federal resources should look like, especially on critical issues such as infrastructure, education, safety, and homelessness.
  • Review awards to confirm whether the county is getting a fair share of state and federal resources compared to other counties on critical issues such as infrastructure, education, safety, and homelessness.
  • Develop options for improving engagement with state and federal decision-makers to improve the county's ability to secure a larger share of available resources
  • Recommendations for effective internal strategies and/or adoption of policies that could impact the county’s ability to capture future available resources at both the state and federal levels.
  • Coordination with departments/staff relating to funding needs and funding requirements at the state and federal levels.
  • Development of strategies for engagement on best ways to communicate the county’s unique challenges.
  • Identify opportunities for regional coordination to increase the ability to capture existing and future state and federal resources.
  • Research the viability and requirements of the county to seek approval to form a new state.
  • Research the viability and requirements of the county changing statehood to a neighboring state.
  • Develop a plan for community and stakeholder engagement including community event coordination, presentations, and exhibits of findings.


The Measure EE proposal also has an implicit ultimatum – that San Bernardino County could leave the state of California unless officials are satisfied it’s getting its fair share.

Experts believe that secession is an idea that's not likely to happen, even if the county sought to become part of Nevada or Arizona, rather than striking out on its own. This is because it would require both the state Legislature and U.S. Congress to approve the change.

Since the state of California became a state in 1850, there have been at least 220 attempts to subdivide it. Bills to divide the state into either two or three were introduced in the state Legislature in the 1960s and 1990s.

Splitting California

In the 21st century, there have been proposals to split California into three, four, or six smaller states. In 2011, former Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone wanted to cluster Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, and Mono counties into a new “South California.”

The committee that includes representatives of both the public and private sectors should be formed "before summer." The exact details of its makeup and what sorts of staff and resources it will have access to are still being decided.

However, Jeff Burum, Measure EE's proponent, is happy that the county is moving ahead with its study. Burum is confident that a deeper dive looking at specific spending will tell a different story, and the committee will find bad formulas, bad appropriations, and bad treatments of San Bernardino County in the entire appropriations process.

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This article originally appeared in Is San Bernardino County getting its ‘fair share’ of state funding? Supervisors ready to find out

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