State-Splitting Measure Gets Its Day In The Legislature

State-Splitting Measure Gets Its Day In The Legislature
OLYMPIA - Should our state be split in two? It's no joke. Several state lawmakers want to see the change. Both sides made their case Tuesday

The "Apple Cup" comes to the state legislature. East versus west. While some may wonder if this is this for real, the lawmakers from Eastern Washington are dead serious about this.

Sen. Bob Morton (R-Eastern Washington) is asked, "This isn't tongue in cheek is it?" "No, no, this isn't tongue in cheek," he replied.

It has been talked about for years, Eastern Washington becoming the 51st State (Senate Joint Measure 8009). The divide would go right down the Cascade Mountain Range. But the effort has gone nowhere at the state legislature.

This year, the secession movement is gaining momentum. Okanogan County Commissioner Mary Lou Peterson tells a senate hearing, "To us it is very serious because we feel it's a protection of our livelihoods, our traditional values that we have in Eastern Washington."

There are the differences you see: farms on the eastside, big business on the west; rural communities on the eastside, urban on the west; Dino Rossi supporters in the east, Chris Gregoire supporters in the west -- mainly King County.

But it goes beyond that. Folks in Eastern Washington say the West is strangling them. The West hands down tough land laws, the East wants property rights restored. The West clamps down with environmental controls, the East wants more liberal water rights. The West issues tight labor laws, the East wants fewer restrictions.

"The folks in Western Washington are dealing with different issues," said Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richards. "They have a different perspective and that's fine. But, it's bringing our folks in Eastern Washington to our knees."

22 percent of the state population lives in Eastern Washington, but Eastsiders only pay 18 percent of the taxes. Seattle Democrat Sen. Adam Kline says let them leave: "Western Washington, to a lessening degree but historically true, is subsidizing Eastern Washington."

Eastern Washington resident Linda Card is asked, "Why do you want to split?" She replied: "So we can be in charge of ourselves over there instead of having to answer to the I-5 corridor."

Western Washington resident Mike Delinsky added, "I personally would not like to see our fellow residents and citizens of Eastern Washington on that side leave us because we are I feel one state."

Opponents say both sides of the state depend on each other.

If it gets through the legislature, it would take an act of Congress to form a new state. It may never get that far. The chair of State Senate Committee, Sen. Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) says he won't even bring it up for a vote. He says now is time to come together, not split.