By Mark Simmons, VP of Citizens for Greater Idaho. Formerly the Oregon Speaker of the House (R-Elgin 2001-2003) and Oregon State Director for USDA Rural Development.
As an eastern Oregon leader in the Greater Idaho movement, I’d like to explain why we are asking your state legislators to vote to begin talks with Oregon about the possibility of relocating the Oregon/Idaho state line. We are grateful that the Idaho House voted in favor last week and hope the Idaho Senate will soon do the same.
So far, eleven counties of eastern Oregon have voted for ballot measures that require their officials to advance the possibility of becoming a part of Idaho. The movement has won elections every May and November since November of 2020, and the campaign continues on to another county this May and, hopefully, three more in the future. Our movement proposes that nearly all of eastern Oregon, except the city of Bend, become a part of Idaho. This is an area populated by 380,000 citizens. The area is very similar to Idaho geographically, economically, politically, and culturally. Our proposal would increase the population of Idaho by 21%, making Idaho as big as Montana and twice as populous.
State lines have been shifted dozens of times in US history, although most shifts have been minor. If two states want to move their state boundaries they must negotiate an “interstate compact” specifying the change and then submit that agreement to Congress for approval. Congress routinely approves interstate compacts each year. A poll by top-ranked Trafalgar Group showed that Idaho voters are strongly in favor. A poll of Oregonians showed good support too. This is why we believe that the state line could really be relocated to match the location of the region’s cultural divide.
Why move the state line?
Idaho would have the satisfaction of freeing rural, conservative communities from progressive blue-state law. We are dismayed by the manner in which Oregon government has marginalized our values and villainized our resource-based livelihoods. This is why our counties voted 75% Republican last year (Idaho voted 67% Republican).
These counties would help maintain rural values in the Idaho Legislature, values of faith, family, and self-reliance. All of eastern Oregon voted against marijuana legalization and the decriminalization of hard drugs.
Currently, Oregon stores are selling drugs right on the edge of the Treasure Valley, which is increasing crime and causing families, and productivity, to suffer. Moving the state line would force drug shops 4 hours farther west, away from most of Idaho’s population.
Many people are moving to Idaho to gain political refuge from blue states. Adding a large part of Oregon to Idaho would take some pressure off of Idaho’s current housing market by giving new people more locations to choose from. It would reduce traffic congestion and reduce the loss of Idaho farmland to suburban housing.
Idahoans would benefit financially from the deal. An economic analysis for the Claremont Institute proved an annual net benefit to Idaho’s state government budget of $170 million. The counties included in our proposal already have the same average income as Idahoans according to US government BEA statistics. Freed from Oregon’s job-killing regulations and taxes, these counties would experience an economic surge that would benefit Idaho even more. Since only 51 percent of the area is public land, adding this area would actually reduce the total percentage of public land in Idaho.
Like many Americans, we in eastern Oregon admire the successes of the people of Idaho. Please, ask your state senators to vote to authorize talks that might lead to our citizens joining forces with yours to build a stronger, greater Idaho.