Colorado Counties Can Become a Part of Another State

This proposal is different from secession because it is simply a shift in borders that does not affect the balance of power in the US Senate. It does not create a new state or increase the number of states.

Borders between states have been relocated or redefined many times in US history. If a deal were made that two state legislatures pass, a border change would almost certainly become a reality.  According to a peer-reviewed law journal,  “Prior to 1921, 36 s between states were put into effect with the consent of Congress; virtually all of these settled boundaries between contiguous states.”  See link: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?&article=1544&context=penn_law_review

The most recent example was land transferred from Minnesota to North Dakota in 1961. www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1961/0/Session+Law/Chapter/236/pdf

West Virginia was admitted to the Union in June 1863.  The Virginia/West Virginia border was moved in August 1863 to annex Berkeley County to West Virginia, and then again in November 1863 to annex Jefferson County.

A January 2019 poll of those categorized as “liberal” or “very liberal”, living in the blue part of a state showed that 2/3 were willing to let low-income Trump-voting counties in their state become a part of another state.  Although this was an Illinois poll, we hope that a poll of Denver and Boulder would yield similar results. The poll is here: www.facebook.com/PeacefulBlueStateSecession/posts/404662573642356        

The Democratic Party has a majority in both houses of the Colorado General Assembly, and the governor is a Democrat. These politicians can be expected to be in favor of strengthening the position of their party in their state by letting low-income Trump-voting counties leave.  They should be in favor of improving their state finances by allowing the departure of counties that don’t pay their share of income and sales taxes because of lower incomes.

It is unlikely that the Colorado General Assembly would allow the creation of a new state because this would increase the number of Republicans in the US Senate, and add 2 Republican electoral votes to presidential elections. Even Congress is unlikely to approve the creation of a new state, even when it is controlled by Republicans. From the point of view of US Senators, giving extra senators to every state that is willing to become multiple states is a dangerous precedent that would weaken the voice of their own state. This is all the more dangerous today, when progressives are looking for ways to ameliorate their disadvantage in the electoral college.

OVERVIEW OF OPTIONS

This proposal presents several options for Colorado to move its borders to put conservative counties on the other side of their borders.  We propose that the eastern edge of Colorado become a part of Oklahoma. 

Eastern and central Colorado (including Douglas County and Colorado Springs) could become a part of Nebraska or Kansas.  If that idea is rejected, it would also be possible for certain counties of the eastern edge of Colorado to join Nebraska, or Kansas.  The problem is that for most taxpayers, Nebraska and Kansas have higher tax rates, overall, than Colorado does.  Colorado hasn’t been a blue state long enough to be sucked dry by its state employees unions, although that is surely coming.

Additionally, western Colorado could become a part of Utah.  The average income of western Colorado is not quite as high as Utah’s, but these counties could promise to pay a small extra county tax to Utah to avoid being a drain on the state.  Combining this option with any of the other options would add more Republican state legislators (of western Colorado) in favor of border relocation.

In every case we present, the addition of these counties would strengthen the dominant political party (the Republican Party) in the state legislature of the neighboring state.  Look in the tables below to see how much the 2016 “Trump vote per Hillary vote” is impacted.

Also look at how moving the border increases the average personal income of Colorado and of the state that the counties are joining. In each of the options we present (except greater Utah), the departure of this group of counties would leave Colorado richer, but also make their new state (Oklahoma) richer.  This is because the group of counties has an average income that is lower than Colorado’s, but higher than Oklahoma’s. This would allow both states to either reduce tax rates or pay off debt.  The per capita income is averaged over 3 years (2016-2018) and adjusted so that rural counties are not penalized for having an excess number of state prisoners (most of whom have no income). Colorado will be expected to take its share of the state prison population after a border change.

The tables below also show what percentage of the Colorado House consists of Democrat representatives who would be left behind in Colorado after the border relocation, plus the percentage of Republican representatives moving to the new state.  Ideally, each of these are potential votes in favor of the border change.

Don’t skip this table. It is the key to the logic of this entire analysis.

Another option not covered in this document is the idea of splitting Colorado into two or three autonomous regions.  Colorado would remain a single member of the Union (a single state), sending 2 US Senators chosen by the state as a whole, and US Reps as normal. However, the state government would be replaced by a government for each autonomous region.  Each region would have a governor.  This idea is based on a bill introduced to the New York state legislature recently to split New York.  This idea is also fleshed out here: https://redstatesecession.org/washington-state-should-become-one-state-consisting-of-two-totally-independent-districts

If you favor one of the ideas in this proposal, please read the section of this proposal on Next Steps.  We don’t live in or near Colorado so we are leaving it up to you to spread the word about these ideas.  One way to network with others would be to join this Facebook group: www.facebook.com/pg/Weld-County-WY-421251611767756

Options we ruled out

Judging from per capita income alone, we don’t think it’s realistic to consider joining Wyoming because Colorado counties would be a financial drain on Wyoming’s state budget, since Wyoming is a very high-income state.  Also, Weld county is not nearly as conservative as Wyoming. Admittedly, they wouldn’t be a big drain on Wyoming, since Wyoming’s state budget relies on sales tax rather than income tax. On the other hand, Wyoming gets a significant amount of its state income from its “severance tax” which is a tax on the extraction of minerals and oil.  It’s possible that Wyoming would consider a group of counties that, as a group, are adequately conservative and also able to pay their share of Wyoming’s state budget.  Finding such a group is beyond the scope of this analysis, but at first glance, it appears that the only way to achieve this would be to split Weld county, so that the cities of Weld County would not become Wyoming. It would be possible to have the formerly Colorado counties agree to pay an extra county tax to Wyoming’s state budget to avoid being a drain on the state.  But the main problem is that the high population of Weld County’s cities prevents the assembly of a group of counties that is as conservative as Wyoming and contiguous with Wyoming (unless Weld county is split).

We ruled out Arizona and New Mexico (and Texas) because they are not red states any longer.

We considered the possibility of making Douglas County a part of another state without including Colorado Springs, but the resulting group of counties would be too rich for Colorado to want to give up.

We don’t endorse the idea of trying to create a 51st state out of Colorado territory because we believe the state legislature of Colorado would not allow it under present conditions, because they don’t want to add two Republican US Senators to the US Senate.  

greater Oklahoma

The Oklahoma/Colorado border could be relocated to put several counties into Oklahoma. This option has none of the problems of the other options. The only problem with this option is that it only affects 135,000 people, who don’t have many state legislators in the Colorado General Assembly. This plan would require majority support from the Democrats in the Assembly, although support from Republicans could be increased slightly by combining it with the greater Utah option. If every Democrat in the House voted for it, and every Republican who represents these counties, the bill would get the votes of 70% of the House.  (We always count partial votes from legislators according to how the proportion of their constituents who are affected). Perhaps Oklahoma would need to take the initiative and reach out to Colorado to make a deal, as West Virginia’s governor did with Virginia in early 2020.

This option includes the eastern, conservative ends of Arapahoe and Adams counties.  Counties are creations of the state. In the American system, the fundamental unit of sovereignty is in the people of a state. A state can dissolve or remap a county with a simple act of the state legislature.

greater Utah

Along the western edge of Colorado, west of the Rocky Mountains, conservative counties border Utah. These counties are all more conservative than Utah, if the eastern ski resort areas of Garfield and San Miguel counties are excluded. The boundaries of our proposed greater Utah are shown at the start of this document. We didn’t follow county lines in some cases in deference to how the precincts voted. A precinct map is below:

In 2016, Utah gave very few votes to Hillary but gave a sizable share of its vote to Evan McMullin, a mormon conservative presidential candidate running as a moralistic alternative to Trump.

The greater Utah proposal only affects 300,000 people, so it is more likely to occur if Utah approaches Colorado for the counties, or if it is done in combination with an effort in eastern Colorado. Republican legislators in eastern and western Colorado could make a deal to support each others’ efforts to move state lines on both sides of the state.  Clearly, western CO legislators have partisan reasons to vote against eastern CO leaving, unless it is part of a deal to let western CO leave too.

greater Nebraska or greater Kansas

The option mapped above is also known as NE + E & mtn CO. There are only two ways to form a group of counties that is as high-income as Nebraska is. One way, shown in the map above, is to include all of Douglas County and the portion of Jefferson County that is due west of Douglas County (this is a conservative portion of Jefferson County).  These two areas contain high-income suburbs at the south edge of the Denver metro area. The other way, named Limited greater Nebraska or Logan County+2, is to form a group of counties without Douglas County, and is described later. 

One problem with including Douglas County and parts of Jefferson County in another state is that they are bedroom communities of Denver.  This means that a income-tax treaty between Nebraska and Colorado would need to be formed as a part of the legislation to move the border.

Another problem is that one of the primary sources of water for Denver is the Platte River, which forms the border between Douglas County and Jefferson County. Also, Park County (included in greater Nebraska in the map above, just west of Jefferson County) is almost perfectly co-extensive with the watershed of the Platte River. An interstate compact between Colorado and Nebraska to reserve most of the Platte’s water for Denver would need to be a part of the legislation to move the border.  States commonly sign interstate agreements allotting each state a portion of the water available from a river. Breach of the agreement is handled in the federal court system.

In the overview of options above, we mentioned that Nebraska tax rates are higher for most people than Colorado tax rates are. We prefer this link because it considers all taxpayers, and shows that Nebraska’s overall personal tax rate (property tax plus individual income tax plus sales and excise tax) is 9.21% of Nebraska’s personal income, Kansas’ is 8.77%, and Colorado is 8.15%: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494  An even more alarming link looks at just the median taxpayer: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-to-be-a-taxpayer/2416 Red states tend to have more sales tax than income tax, which hits the median family more than an income tax would.  But sales taxes are better for the economy than income taxes and they are more fair. Neither of these studies consider corporate taxes and other taxes and fees that are eventually passed on to the consumer, but a quick check of Colorado’s corporate taxes does not indicate that Colorado is majoring on corporate taxes. A movement to create a greater Nebraska or Kansas would have to emphasize culture-war issues and fracking more than financial issues, which would narrow the number of people attracted to the movement.

On the other hand, greater Nebraska and greater Kansas are the only two options that could hope to gain the support of almost every Republican state legislator in Colorado, since these options would move 1,747,000 Coloradans in conservative counties to another state.

The greater Kansas option is labelled KS + E & mtn CO.  Kansas has a Democrat for a governor until January 2023, since Sam Brownback tarnished the reputation of the Kansas Republican Party.  However, governors can be persuaded by a groundswell of support.  The governor of West Virginia who invited conservative Virginia counties to join his state in 2020 had relatively recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

These two options (greater Kansas or greater Nebraska) would be the biggest financial help to the remainder of Colorado because it removes the most low-income counties from Colorado.

Here’s another version (shown above) of greater Kansas called KS + E CO.  It’s different from greater Kansas because it doesn’t include mountain counties of Park, Fremont, or Custer, and (contrary to the map above) it doesn’t include Otero county or the eastern portion of Las Animas County.  The advantage of this option is that it doesn’t interfere with Denver’s watershed in Park County. It also leaves the remainder of Colorado looking more compact. It leaves a route from Pueblo to Denver within the control of Colorado via via US 285, hwy 9, and US 50 (not US 25).

Surprisingly, Colorado Springs only needs the watershed found in Teller County immediately to the west. This watershed is included in this option KS + E CO.

To avoid straddling the Platte River, one of the main sources of Denver’s water, consider the option shown above, called KS + E CO – Jefferson.

The option called KS + E CO – Jeff – Weld does not add Weld County to Kansas.  Weld County is barely as conservative as Kansas and not as high-income as Kansas is.  This option provides the biggest financial benefit to Kansas (or Nebraska). It includes Colorado Springs, but only adds 1.2 million people to Kansas.

“Limited” greater Nebraska or “Limited” greater Kansas

Surprisingly, the only group of counties contiguous with Nebraska that is as high-income as Nebraska without including Douglas County is Logan, Sedgewick, and Phillips counties.  These three counties together only had 28,000 residents in 2018.  This option is called Logan+2 or Limited greater Nebraska. 

Logan+5 only has 48,000 residents, and when added to Kansas, would be called Limited greater Kansas.

The data for all of the options above is given in the first table in this document (above).

Why the Colorado General Assembly should want to move the border

Financial Reasons: Making the average income higher by reducing the number of poor counties in the state would not directly increase a resident’s income, but it would help the state government’s finances to the point that the state could reduce tax rates, or at least reduce the budget deficit.  This effect is large and would pay off every year. 

The loss of a large amount of land should not concern the state legislature because there is no state property tax. A state legislature cares about the per capita or per household income of an area because this indicates whether this area is a net contributor or net drain on the state government’s budget.  State government revenue comes almost entirely from income taxes and sales tax.  Corporate taxes are a very small part of state revenues.  As far as the state budget is concerned, people and their incomes matter, not land area. The only thing Colorado has to lose is the satisfaction of seeing a large footprint when they look at a map. 

Colorado counties would need to agree to take their share of their state debt as they depart the state. These debts and unfunded liabilities are already owed by each citizen of these states, so it is not really a cost of the border change.

Colorado is counting on its current population to pay the pensions for state employees that have already been obligated. Departing counties would need to agree on a scheme that would compensate Colorado for the loss of their population, by agreeing to pay into the pension fund according to a schedule.  The neighboring state would need to avoid forcing the new counties to pay for the portion of that state’s state pensions that were already earned before the counties joined the state.   

If Colorado’s legislature is unconvinced, county governments in Colorado could offer to pay Colorado for the privilege of leaving the state. 

Political: This proposal increases the power over state policy for the areas that remain in Virginia because it eliminates the political influence of the counties that leave the state. 

By letting conservative counties go, this deal makes the position of the Democratic Party stronger in Colorado. Its electorate would become more progressive.  One way to measure the difference is to look at the most recent presidential election. 

Republicans already represent these counties in the US House of Representatives, so this border change does not affect the balance of the US House of Representatives.

For presidential elections, there are 538 electoral votes in the country.  For every 754,000 people that move from a blue state to a red state, Republicans gain one electoral vote, which is only 0.19% of 538. The loss of electoral vote(s) would not take effect until the 2032 elections following the 2030 census.

3) Harmony and civility: The groups of counties changing to another state in this proposal voted very heavily for Trump.  Their departure will reduce the partisanship in Colorado, by reducing the number of Trump voters, and by ending the power struggle by making elections less close. Allowing these counties to leave reduces the chance of unrest and makes these states more harmonious ideologically.

How Departing Colorado Counties Would Pay Their Share of the State Debt

The per capita debt of state governments are as follows: Colorado, $11,658, Kansas $9083, Nebraska $8768, Utah $7866, Oklahoma, $4900.

Consider the case of joining Oklahoma, as an example. Since the per capita debt of the state government of Colorado is $11,658, the government of each departing county would take on its per capita share of its state debt as a part of this deal.  However, because they would be as responsible as any other Oklahoman for Oklahoma’s $4900 per capita debt in the future after joining Oklahoma, Oklahoma would compensate the government of each county $4900 per capita.  Departing Colorado counties would be left with a debt of $11,658 – 4900 = $6758 per capita which could be paid off with the issuance of county bonds, which could be paid off with a temporary county tax. 

The cost of $6758 should not be seen as a cost of switching governments.  It is an already-existing debt that they would eventually have to pay even if they remain in Colorado.

The $4900 per capita cost to the State of Oklahoma is not really a loss to the State of Oklahoma, because the new Oklahomans would become obligated to help pay for Oklahoma’s pre-existing debt ($4900 per capita) in return, along with other Oklahomans. It could be funded by a state bond issuance.

Colorado infrastructure in these areas that hasn’t been paid off could be purchased by Oklahoma, in return for gaining counties that pay taxes each year.

Next Steps

We need your help to spread the word about this idea; please join this Facebook group and send your email address to the admins of the group so that you won’t miss announcements: www.facebook.com/pg/Weld-County-WY-421251611767756

Share the message of this proposal by creating memes and sharing in Facebook, Facebook groups, and Instagram.  This is important because legislators tend to follow public opinion rather than leading public opinion.  

You can attend county fairs and other public events to publicize this with a sign, a t-shirt,  brochures, or even a table. You can purchase our decal and bumper stickers for your car.

Ask your county Board of Supervisors to issue put a question about this on the ballot or gather signatures to put it on the ballot as a county referendum.  Email them and call them individually.

Next, contact Republican state legislators in the departing counties and ask them to read this proposal and ask them to explain it to the Democrat state leadership of Colorado.  Call them, send Facebook messages, email them, and ask to meet with them. You can contact more than just your own legislators.  We hope that Colorado Democrat state leadership will hear about this proposal, appreciate it, and then reach out to neighboring state leadership to negotiate an interstate compact.  If they negotiate a deal, they can introduce a bill in each legislature and pass it. If you get a postive response, let the admins of the facebook groups know.

Colorado (state) House Districts:

Colorado state senator districts:

For information on the 2013 effort, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Colorado

https://www.greeleytribune.com/news/five-years-after-weld-and-10-other-counties-tried-to-secede-from-colorado-feelings-of-division-still-linger/

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, john.cooke.senate@state.co.us , speaks during a Greeley Centennial Rotary lunch Thursday at the Greeley Country Club. During his remarks, Cooke said he didn’t support the 51st State Initiative five years ago.

At the Rotary meeting, Cooke said he didn’t support the secession movement when it happened, and now that the state is moving toward Democratic leadership at the top levels of the state government, he said Weld County would be better off joining its neighbor to the north.

“I’m thinking we oughta join Wyoming instead of seceding,” he said. “We have a lot more in common with Wyoming than Boulder. Gun control will be a big issue. They (Democrats) just can’t help themselves. They’ll ramrod a lot of bad policy through.”

Colorado state Republican Sen. Vicki Marble has become the first local elected official to suggest rural Colorado secede from the rest of the state more than five years after a failed attempt to do the same. https://www.greeleytribune.com/news/is-secession-on-the-table-again-in-weld-county-for-one-local-lawmaker-the-answer-is-yes/

Why Coloradans want Liberation

$100 goes farther in counties that have alternate governance than in counties under Colorado governance:

Excerpt of letter by Colorado Senator Ted Harvey (Ret.):

When I was elected to the Colorado State Legislature in 2002, the Republican Party controlled the House, the Senate and the Governor’s office. 

Shockingly, over the next few years, I witnessed the Democrats take control of each branch of government. 

Several multi-millionaire radical homosexual activists, along with Planned Parenthood and the teachers’ unions, joined with extreme environmental groups to take over Colorado. 

This resulted in a dramatic political and spiritual shift that was felt throughout the entire state. 

  • On his very first day in office, the newly-elected Democrat Governor authorized public funding of abortions — in direct violation of our state Constitution. 
  • The legislature quickly passed same-sex marriage — directly violating a prohibition in our state Constitution. 
  • The Democrat legislature also passed the most restrictive gun control measures in our state’s history. 
  • The Governor unionized the state employee workforce. 
  • The environmental community had a field day — they passed every radical bill they wanted. 
  • With frustration, I also witnessed the Democrats overturn three laws which I had personally sponsored.  They repealed my bills which prohibited in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, and they repealed all state sanctions against sanctuary cities. 
  • Finally, during my last legislative session, they passed liberal election reforms which created all mail-in balloting and same-day voter registration (otherwise known as same-day voter fraud). 

Colorado Senator Ted Harvey (Ret.) 

For another excellent summary of why there is no future for conservatives under Colorado governance, click here: https://gazette.com/opinion/column-are-colorado-conservatives-ready-for-the-tsunami/article_3c787922-4902-11ea-8a5d-a33d1779fed6.html

This document is revision 0, March 18, 2020.

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