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Don’t dismiss the Greater Idaho movement

A recent column in the Mail Tribune raised questions about the Greater Idaho movement working to relocate the Oregon/Idaho border so that Southern and Eastern Oregon would become a part of Idaho. As the leader of the movement, I can explain why this idea, though it might be a long shot, is worth the effort, and why it would be good for the citizens of Jackson County.

The column colorfully describes the future Greater Idaho as a “geographical love-child.” Yet it’s Oregon that is a strange combination of normal rural Americans and left-coast urban progressives. Southern and Eastern Oregon have cultures that fit Idaho’s governance, not Salem’s governance. This is probably why Oregonians were far more likely than residents of any other state to search out information online about militias and election violence last fall according to an analysis by Moonshot CVE. Curry County, in Southern Oregon, was the county googling this the most. If the U.S. is going to see an outbreak of civil strife, Oregon may be the location where it escalates the worst. Look at Portland. Heaven help us.

To defuse an extreme and potentially dangerous mismatch such as this, it makes sense to align state boundaries with cultural boundaries. When it comes to governance preferences, we can discover where the cultural boundaries lie by looking at election results. Southern Oregon gave Knute Buehler 1.75 votes for every Kate Brown vote in 2018, an election she won.

Long after Gov. Brown is out of office, her replacements will continue to act on the priorities and values of northwestern Oregon because that area has 79% of Oregon’s voters. This is why Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican governor in 38 years, and Democrats have a super-majority in both houses of the Oregon Legislature. We believe most Southern Oregon Democrats don’t want Southern Oregon to be ruled by the kind of Portland politicians who won’t or can’t stand up to the relentless advancement of radical social proposals.

Half of the Republicans in the Legislature represent our counties of Eastern and Southern Oregon, but Republicans are no longer consulted on state matters. Meanwhile, there are no Democrats in the Legislature who represent a rural district. So, there isn’t a single state legislator in the Legislature who understands and represents rural interests and is included in state decision-making.

We wouldn’t have this problem in Idaho. What benefit can there be to being ruled by Portlanders who don’t understand our industries or our way of life? Many northwest Oregonians look at rural Oregon as backward, behind the times and a great place to hunt, fish, ski and play.

The primary reason that the Oregon Legislature might vote to let Oregon counties join Idaho is that they would be rid of a big drain on the state government’s budget. If you ask the average voter in the Willamette Valley how much he’d be willing to pay each year to keep our counties in the state, his answer would probably be below $5. Yet their average wage-earner is subsidizing these counties by $324 per year. How long will they keep our counties captive just to keep the map from changing? Yet these counties have a similar average income to Idaho, so they wouldn’t be a drain on Idaho’s budget.

To Southern Oregon, does this subsidy justify remaining a part of Oregon? Not at all. First of all, we’d save money being a part of a low-tax state like Idaho. Combining all taxes together, the average Idahoan paid $1,722 less in taxes in 2018 than the average Oregonian. That’s averaging together every adult or child. And cost of living is far lower because Idaho has less regulation. Secondly, Southern Oregonians prefer to be self-reliant, not dependent. Idaho’s low taxes and light regulation would cause local industry to bloom here as it has in Idaho. In March, the U.S. government ranking of 50 states on unemployment rate showed Idaho ranked fifth and Oregon 31st. Idaho is not a sanctuary state, nor does it give drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, so citizens are less likely to have to compete in the labor market with them.

Don’t discount Citizens for Greater Idaho. We have a real chance at moving a state border. In Jackson County, 14 citizens have contacted us in the last few weeks to volunteer to help do it. Jackson County is starting to speak out and they want to have a voice, not to mention a vote, on this issue.

Mike McCarter of La Pine is president of Citizens for Greater Idaho. Email him at mike@greateridaho.org.