Greater Idaho

Greater Idaho, as envisioned by the supporters of a ballot initiative submitted to the Douglas County Clerk’s Office, would include southwestern and eastern Oregon and eventually expand to include northern California.

Break up with Oregon?

{child_byline}CARISA CEGAVSKE

Senior Staff Writer

The News-Review

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Douglas County voters could have a chance this November to weigh in on whether they’d like to ditch Oregon and join the Gem State.

The proponents of the “Greater Idaho” project hope to convince Oregon and Idaho residents that southwestern and eastern Oregon don’t really belong in the Beaver State.

They say the swaths of conservative, pro-Trump, anti-tax voters that populate Oregon’s rural counties have more in common with Idaho — so why not join it?

Greater Idaho supporters filed a petition with the Douglas County Clerk’s Office this week for a local ballot measure. But even if county voters say “yes” to becoming Idahoans, there would still be a long, uncertain road ahead. The two states’ legislatures and the U.S. Congress would have to sign off on a border change.

The Douglas County initiative petition is at the District Attorney’s office awaiting approval of a ballot title, Douglas County Clerk Dan Loomis said Thursday morning.

In order to get the measure on the Douglas County ballot, the petitioners must collect 2,954 signatures — 6% of the votes cast for governor in 2018.

Co-Chief Petitioner Valerie Gottschalk lived in Idaho for four years back in the 1980s and loved it. She’s a conservative Christian and feels that the state reflects her values more than Oregon does. She’s also lived in California and Portland, but currently lives in Josephine County, where the group is also gathering signatures for a Greater Idaho measure.

Greater Idaho supporters believe joining Idaho would be simpler than the better-known proposal to combine Southern Oregon and Northern California into the State of Jefferson.

That’s because building a brand new state would create two new Republican U.S. senators — a plan likely to be quashed by the California and Oregon legislatures’ Democratic majorities.

Greater Idaho proponents would eventually like to bring conservative northern California counties into Idaho as well. But that’s Phase 2. Phase 1 is convincing Idaho and Oregon to change their borders.

Gottschalk said the campaign to join Idaho is rolling, fueled in part by enthusiasm generated by the unsuccessful attempt to recall Gov. Kate Brown.

She said both rural and northwestern Oregon would benefit from a split.

Southern and eastern Oregon receive a disproportionate amount of taxpayer funds from the more prosperous parts of the state, which wouldn’t have that financial drain if the rural counties left. And the rural counties could benefit from lower taxes and fewer business regulations in Idaho, she said.

“Idaho doesn’t have the regulations that are sitting on everything. They don’t give so much voice to the environmentalists that want to shut everything down,” she said.

Rural Oregon and Idaho are more similar politically than rural and northwestern Oregon. The rural counties included in the proposal voted about 2-to-1 for Republican President Donald Trump over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016. So did Idaho. But many Northwestern Oregon counties favored Clinton.

Much of Timber Unity’s conflict with Salem over cap-and-trade legislation might melt away if rural counties were to leave the state. Idaho and rural Oregon are more closely aligned on issues like gun rights and land use laws, too.

Gottschalk feels the distance between rural and northwestern Oregon reflects a broader trend of political division in the country.

“The Democrats and Republicans seem to have a split in them right now that’s so vast I don’t know how it’ll ever, ever, ever get resolved. There’s no compromise anywhere. Everybody has got their feet dug in real nice and deep and has no intention of even listening to the other side,” she said.

Idaho, currently landlocked, could gain a coastline if it annexed rural Oregon and access to international trade that could boost its economy.

It would also gain public universities including the Oregon Institute of Technology, Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University. But Oregonians becoming new Idaho residents would likely lose their in-state tuition benefits at the remaining colleges, including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

The new Idaho residents would have to pay 6% sales taxes on goods purchased in the newly enlarged state. They could pump their own gas. And they’d have a lower minimum wage. Currently, Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25. That compares to between $11 and $11.25 in Oregon, depending on the county.

If all the counties in the proposal were to join Idaho, that state would increase its population by 71% to 2.9 million and Oregon’s population would decrease by 21%, according to Greater Idaho.

The counties proposed to join Greater Idaho include Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler. Portions of Wasco, Jefferson and Deschutes would also be included, but Bend would remain in Oregon.

It’s not the first time some Oregonians have pushed to join Idaho. In 2015, La Grande farmer Ken Parsons suggested adding eastern Oregon and eastern Washington to Idaho — an idea that so far has failed to gain any traction.

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Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(12) comments

dejadoodoo

I’ll start off by saying that I wasn’t born in Oregon; retired and moved to Roseburg because I thoroughly enjoy the people, scenery, activities and proximity to the ocean. I discovered this in 80’s on a work-related visit to this area, and I believe life here seems to have only gotten better.

I’ve voted both Republican and Democrat up and down the spectrum over the years no matter what state boundary I was living in – and there’s been more than two. Up until maybe 20 years ago people used to actually talk about things on their minds freely and without much fear of being crucified for actually having an opinion. Much has changed. I personally don’t discuss politics out loud much anymore because I’ve found few people willing to be open minded or civil. The world is complicated, but no one wants to discuss the gray areas – they only want to stay in their black or white corners.

Our Democratic Republic Federal government seems to have become more adept at foolishness and less adept and looking after our country – which is the only job they were elected to do. Like a kid who decides to play video games over doing homework, the results will not be pleasant for us unless somethings changes. It’s not a forward change – but a backward change – people need to learn how to talk and accept differing opinions without threats. Is permanently changing a state boundary wise because of politics? I don’t think so, but that’s just me. It would be a huge change with questionable benefits – but why not talk about it openly?

wzatmath

Have any of these morons thought of the costs involved? Sales tax: 6%, minimum wage is $7.29 vs 11.15. Also does any one of these folks including Kruse and other ignorants thought what the value of their properties may plummet? The more I read, the more idiotic this whole concept becomes. There are NO positives. How will people pay rent with this huge drop in minimum wage. Many people in Douglas County are often working two minimum wage jobs make ends meet and how will they pay their bills at almost $4 less per hour? Please, use your heads and do not vote for this!!

Rise722

I would simply draw the lines differently...let all of the western half of Oregon be by themselves - except Douglas County. And don't include any of California.....

wzatmath

Running a state takes great intelligence which broke Douglas County is lacking as is Idaho. I do NOT want to.be part of this foolishness!!

mynamehere

Unlike Oregon, Delivery of marijuana (a Schedule 1 controlled substance) is an automatic felony, carrying a penalty of up to life in prison. How many Douglas county residents will lose their jobs and livelihoods when we become Idaho?

smedleyb

This is another dumb idea along with the "State of Jefferson" idea. Despite my disgust with the overwhelming ignorance and gullibility of some many of my fellow citizens we are slowly devolving into a mindset of "down with anyone who ain't me".

Momos

They want to live in a theocracy, imposing their religion's version of Shariah law on everyone. Just like Iran. Blacks, browns, and gays would be the first to be eliminated. Disputes would be settled with guns, not law. Like it's done in Afghanistan. How about walling off Northern Idaho for all you so-called "Christian Conservatives"? Your very own safe space. And take Trump with you.

garyd

Move back to Idaho....

Clevelander

Yes please. The state government has no love for rural Oregon. I dare say, they despise it.

smedleyb

That's what I think when a Republican is in the White House.

CitizenJoe

The only advantage I can see is that this would raise the average IQ, income level, and educational level in both California and Oregon.

Rockyboy

And Idaho. (With apologies to Will Rogers: "When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the IQ in both states.")

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