Colorado counties consider forming new U.S. state

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Citing anger over state policies, commissioners from the northeastern Colorado counties of Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma, and Kit Carson expressed interest, at a meeting last week, in withdrawing from Colorado to form a new U.S. state, named "North Colorado".

North Colorado highlighted in red.
Image: William S. Saturn.

Commissioners from each county met at the Colorado Counties, Inc. Conference Wednesday, and discussed the proposal. It stems from rural Colorado's perceived isolation from the rest of the state as a result of such Denver policies as stricter gun control laws, agricultural regulation, and oil and gas regulation. According to the commissioners, the "[s]traws that broke the camel's back" in support of secession, included Colorado Statute S.B. 252, which Governor John Hickenlooper signed last week to increase renewable energy standards in rural Colorado. Local energy companies consider the statute too costly to their industry. In addition, Weld County commissioner Sean Conway, who proposed the idea, argues that though revenue from his county's agricultural and oil and gas sectors account for 70 percent of Colorado's state budget, state funds for the county's schools and road improvements remain low.

The counties could place the idea on the ballot as soon as the November 2013 elections. According to Tom Norton, Mayor of Greeley, the largest city in what would be North Colorado, many people in his city are upset over the state government. A poll on the city's The Tribune newspaper website shows 49.66 percent support the idea of seceding from Colorado, while 44.15 percent oppose it, and 6.19 percent believe the counties should instead secede from the U.S.

Nevertheless, seceding from a U.S. state requires permission from both the U.S. Congress and the original state legislature. Steve Mazurana, a former professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Colorado, sees this as the death of idea: "All the rest of the states are not going to want to share their federal aid with this new state...And the state is not going to give up oil and gas money on a whim."

Since the 1863 secession of West Virginia from Virginia, no state has successfully seceded. The three most recent efforts all failed in 2011. Chicago was unable to secede from Illinois, Florida could not be split in half, and the southern part of Arizona could not break away to create Baja Arizona.