The initiative to move Idaho’s border and include more than 18 Oregon counties received a big boost locally after enough signatures were gathered to get a petition on the November ballot in Wallowa County, and while the idea can seem attractive, it suffers from a lot of unanswered questions.
Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho announced over the weekend that it has collected enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot asking if voters want the county commission to meet quarterly to consider the benefits of making Wallowa County part of Idaho.
Many probably already are aware of the effort, sponsored by the Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, to expand Idaho’s border to include many Eastern and Southern Oregon counties. The campaign, spearheaded by Mike McCarter, a retired La Pine resident, is active throughout portions of the state. The ballot initiative — if all the signatures are verified — on the November ballot isn’t a groundbreaking move. Yet it will start a process that could, one day, bring a tremendous change.
However, the idea faces several hurdles, not the least of which is the participation of the Gem State. While Idaho’s governor earlier this year said he understood why people would be interested in becoming Idaho residents, his office appears to be lukewarm to the idea.
The entire concept, of course, is rooted in the longstanding disenchantment by many on the eastern side of the state with Western Oregon. The mantra is familiar — politically and culturally, Eastern Oregon is far different than Western Oregon and Eastern Oregon political goals and values are constantly undermined by a Legislature dominated by liberal Democrats.
The mantra is good as far as it goes but it faces some hard realities. Yes, the Legislature does have a supermajority of Democrats. That means Republican ideals championed by the majority in Eastern Oregon, often go unnoticed or dismissed. Yet that may have more to do with political acumen by the region’s elected leaders rather than a widespread conspiracy to hammer Eastern Oregon.
The idea faces other barriers as well. If the idea to leave Oregon and become part of Idaho gains traction from voters, at some point it will have to be approved by the Oregon Legislature and then by Congress.
Key questions remain. Like: What happens to PERS, the state retirement system? Can the counties that become part of Idaho generate enough tax revenue? Can Idaho provide the kind of monetary support Salem does to the eastern counties if they become part of the Gem State?
In the end the idea has some merit but without reliable answers to those questions and others, it is more of an academic “what-if” than a legitimate building block for the future.