Idaho House Passes Bill to Explore Absorbing Counties From Eastern Oregon

Idaho House Passes Bill to Explore Absorbing Counties From Eastern Oregon
Thirty percent of counties vote to secede from Oregon. (Courtesy of Join Greater Idaho)
Allan Stein

The Idaho House of Representatives has approved a proposal to pursue merging some conservative-leaning counties from eastern Oregon into Idaho.

On Feb. 15, the Idaho lawmakers voted 41–28, with one abstention, in support of House Joint Memorial 1—the “Greater Idaho” bill. The bill now moves to the state Senate for a final vote.

A movement known as Greater Idaho seeks to include as many as 15 conservative counties in eastern Oregon within Idaho’s borders, saying it would end political tension and gridlock in Oregon as well as provide other benefits.

Political Tensions Would Disappear

They include ending the need for western Oregon to subsidize the state’s east and south.

“Almost everybody will agree that we are very divided and that it causes tension. People recognize there is a problem. We’re offering a solution that makes sense,” said Matt McCaw, spokesman for the Greater Idaho Movement in Oregon.

He said the political tension will disappear “if you get people matched up to the government they want.”

Of 36 counties in Oregon, 11 have voted to explore the merger. On Nov. 8, 2022, Morrow and Wheeler counties approved the measure with sizable majority votes.

McCaw said studies and polls also show many Oregonians support relocating the state boundary and changing state governance from Oregon to Idaho.

However, McCaw told The Epoch Times that at the legislative level, “we haven’t had as much interest moving this bill forward in Oregon as we have in Idaho.”

“We’re hopeful the legislative leaders in Oregon will hear what the people are asking and saying, and move these forward,” he said.

McCaw said there are “many good reasons” for the merger, and many economic and political benefits to reap.

While Oregon would lose about 400,000 residents—about 9 percent of its population—it would help resolve the longstanding political divide between the eastern and western parts of the state, proponents said.

Nearly 58 percent of the state tends to vote conservative and Republican.

A Conservative Proposal

“Everybody understands the problem. Everybody is ready to look at this as a solution,” McCaw said.

He said the bill is “moving fast” in Idaho, and the bill’s sponsors are hopeful that the state Senate will begin hearings in the next month or so.

If the proposal is approved by both state legislatures, the next step will be to assemble delegations to hammer out the merger and new border details through an interstate compact.

While the U.S. Congress ultimately would sign off on the border realignment, McCaw said doing so would be more of a “formality.”

“We’re moving fast in Idaho. We’re excited about that,” he said.

One poll showed that 68 percent of northwestern Oregon voters support exploring the idea.

“Eastern Oregon deserves a chance to present this proposal to Oregon state leaders,” according to a Greater Idaho press release.

Moreover, The Claremont Institute found the merger would end more affluent western Oregon’s tax subsidization of eastern and southern Oregon.

However, with its lower taxes and regulation, Idaho would benefit from an infusion of $170 million annually in new tax revenues.

“Therefore, if eastern Oregonians brought their share of their state government’s assets and debts into Idaho, they would hardly change Idaho’s per-person net assets,” according to the Greater Idaho press release.

McCaw said all the bill’s supporters are asking for is a fair hearing in Oregon, calling it a “win-win” for both states.

Several Oregon House members didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.