Greater Idaho movement gaining momentum

The grassroots organization looking to relocate 15 conservative counties from Oregon into Idaho is gaining some momentum
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 9:44 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —The grassroots organization looking to relocate 15 conservative counties from Oregon into Idaho is gaining some momentum. The discussions about the possibility of relocating the border are likely to be brought up this legislative session.

Greater Idaho spokesman Matt McCaw said his organization has continued to prove that people in Eastern Oregon “love” the group’s movement. Recently the organization gathered enough signatures to submit a petition to the county clerk in Wallowa County that could force a ballot initiative onto the May ballot, essentially asking Wallowa County voters if they want to be Idahoans. The ballot question will ask county residents, “Shall commissioners meet twice annually to discuss promoting Wallowa County interest in relocating Idaho borders to include Wallowa County”.

“We have proven that people in Eastern Oregon would rather get their state level governance from Idaho. We have won 11 out of 15 counties, and those votes have not even been close. It’s been 60% to 40% typically,” McCaw said.

He said the movement has proven that Eastern Oregonians have an appetite to join Idaho with the vote outcomes. McCaw said their next step is to actually get the two states talking. The movement’s volunteers are asking Oregon Senate President Nominee Rob Wagner to allow a hearing on their bill in the Oregon State Legislature. If passed, it will begin the process for an interstate compact where the two state legislatures invite each other to discuss where it makes sense to put the border.

Here in Idaho, Republican Rep. Barbara Erhardt of Idaho Falls is planning to do the same, and advocate on the behalf of conservative rural Oregonians who feel they are being dominated by the liberal urban centers in the northwest part of the state.

“I think we should at least have that conversation. That’s what I have been encouraging and have been wanting to do. That’s why I have been the one heading this up on the Idaho side,” said Erhardt. “If they were to join Idaho and all that area becomes deregulated and has the same regulations as Idaho does, I think you are looking at a goldmine,” Erhardt said.

When asked why some Eastern Oregonians don’t just move to Idaho, McCaw said it’s because they can’t take their land with them, as some of them live on land that has been in their families for generations.

Erhardt adds, “We are talking about many people who have been on their land, this has been their land in their family for a 100 years.”

Hypothetically, if the border were to be relocated it would shift 63 percent of Oregon’s land mass to Idaho, but only nine percent of the population, said McCaw.

Additionally he said the move would be a “win, win” for both Eastern and Western Oregon. He said there is almost no state owned land in Eastern Oregon. The vast majority of the land is owned by the Federal Government or by private property owners. McCaw said in Oregon the property taxes go to the county.

“So if you move a county you are not taking tax dollars away for the State of Oregon,” McCaw said.

He also said Oregon has a state income tax that funds the state government. McCaw said Eastern Oregon Counties are poorer than Western Oregon Counties , and the Western part of the state has to subsidize the Eastern part of the state, “at the tune of a few hundred dollars per person”, said McCaw. Greater Idaho’s website said in 2019, the average northwestern Oregonian wage earner subsidized eastern & southern Oregon counties by $382 per year.

“By letting Eastern Oregon go, they would not only wouldn’t lose any tax revenue, they would have more tax dollars to stay at home in Western Oregon to spend on problems that are specific to Western Oregon ,” McCaw said.

However, Idaho Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel thinks the concept would set a dangerous precedent, furthering the divide between progressives and conservatives. She said people preferring to move the borders of their state so they can live with like-minded people, instead of trying to settle differences through discussion, “could lead to the downfall of America”, and is “a recipe for civil war”.

Additionally. She thinks the concept has some flaws to it .

“If I were in these counties in Oregon , if I were in Ontario, Oregon, I would be like, ‘gosh, do I really want to lose $111 million a year of marijuana revenue’,” said Rubel. “If that county were to be part of Idaho it would lose a major economic driver for their economy.”

In Idaho recreation and medicinal marijuana are illegal. Unlike Oregon where medicinal and recreational marijuana are legal.

Additionally she thinks it could have a detrimental impact on educational system in the Eastern Oregon Counties.

“If I were living in one of those counties in Oregon I would think, do I want my teachers to suddenly be making $18,000 a year less than they are in Oregon,” Rubel said.

McCaw said he is hoping the Oregon Legislatures will respect the Eastern Oregonian wishes and pass their bill so they can begin talks with Idaho.

“If that does not happen this session then we will keep trying in the next session,” said McCaw. “Because our Idea is a movement of self determination. The people of Eastern Oregon are saying we want to change our state level governance.”