When it comes to statehood changes that the United States might be facing in the coming years, the two issues that spring most readily to mind — indeed, the only two issues that spring to mind — are the statehood pushes being made by Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
On the other end of the country, however, a secession movement of a more obscure nature could make problems for Oregon’s mostly Democratic state government — including lockdown-happy Gov. Kate Brown.
According to the Idaho Statesman, five counties in the eastern portion of the state are likely to vote this May on whether they want to join the adjacent state of Idaho.
The Greater Idaho Project, which has sought to persuade counties in the conservative eastern part of Oregon to join their more Republican neighboring state, says it’s awaiting verification to get the measure on the ballot in two counties, Baker and Lake.
Grant, Malheur and Sherman counties have already passed the threshold needed to hold a vote on the matter.
According to The News-Review in Roseburg, Oregon, proponents of the measure feel “swaths of conservative, pro-Trump, anti-tax voters” in the east of the state are poorly represented by a government dominated by the liberal coastal areas in Oregon.
“Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” Mike McCarter, president of the pro-secession group Move Oregon’s Border, said, according to the Statesman.
“We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort.”
Last Monday, McCarter announced Baker and Lake counties would be voting on the measure on May 18, since proponents of secession had gathered 141 percent of the necessary signatures.
The state has yet to verify the signatures, however.
In total, the group aims to get 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties — those outside the liberal Willamette Valley — to join with Idaho.
“Divisions in Oregon are getting dangerous, so we see the relocation of the border as a way to keep the peace. It’s not divisive,” McCarter said.
“Oregon and Idaho are already divided by a state line. The problem is that the location of the state line was decided 161 years ago and is now outdated.”
What are the odds? Switching up the borders theoretically could be done, but it requires more than victories at the ballot box on May 18. The respective state legislatures and U.S. Congress are the entities with the true power to approve the change.
On its website, the Greater Idaho Project said its proposal would be “a win-win for the interests of each state legislature, and for the counties that get to switch states.”
“If the United States were governed as a single state, we wouldn’t have the opportunity for state governance to vary according to the culture of a local area,” the website reads. “The purpose of having state lines is to allow this variance. The Oregon/Idaho border was established 161 years ago and is now outdated. It makes no sense in its current location because it doesn’t match the location of the cultural divide in Oregon. The Oregon/Washington border was updated in 1958. It’s time to move other borders.”
For the more conservative counties in the eastern part of the state, the benefits are obvious.
“Idaho is the state with the 8th smallest tax burden, and Oregon ranks 33rd,” the Greater Idaho Project noted. “Combining all taxes together, including sales tax, the average Idahoan pays $1722 less in taxes per year than the average Oregonian. That’s averaging together every adult or child, employed, retired or unemployed. And cost of living is 39% higher in Oregon than in Idaho. Oregon tax rates will continue to go up due to a lack of willingness to control spending.”
“Oregon will continue to get worse on social and cultural issues and American freedoms because Republicans are outnumbered. Addicts will be attracted to Oregon from all over the world by the 2020 drug decriminalization law,” the website said. “Idaho enforces the law against rioters, forest fire arsonists, and other criminals. Idaho protects citizens.”
As for Idaho, the project notes that it would add to the state’s population and “economies of scale,” noting that it “chose a group of counties that has a slightly higher average income than Idaho, so our counties will help the state budget.”
And as for the remainder of Oregon, it would get rid of pesky Republicans.
“Letting these counties go helps the Democratic Party keep its super-majority in their state legislature, and avoid gridlock when Republican legislators walk out to deny a quorum,” the website argued. “Oregon would make progress, becoming more liberal than Washington state, although not as liberal as California.
“No Republicans would be added to the US Senate or US House by this change. The effect on the electoral college would only be one elector out of 538, or less than 0.2%, and wouldn’t take effect until 2032.”
There’s also the fact that the counties that want to leave receive plenty of money from the Willamette Valley part of Oregon, which tends to be more prosperous. According to the group’s numbers, “northwestern Oregonians subsidize eastern/southern Oregon counties by $324 per year per wage earner.”
The announcement of the ballot measure came days before Brown extended Oregon’s COVID-19 state of emergency despite a declining number of cases — an issue that’s divided the state’s Democrats and Republicans.
Today, I extended my declaration of a state of emergency for COVID-19 for 60 more days.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) February 25, 2021
“Despite declining case counts, today you extended your emergency declaration, squeezing Oregonians even more. The Legislature cannot do its work to help Oregonians recover when people cannot go back to work because of orders requiring small businesses to stay closed,” Senate Republicans said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
Also on Thursday, state GOP legislators boycotted a Senate session over COVID issues, arguing that the Legislature “has abdicated too much responsibility” to Brown and demanding she deal with teachers unions in order to get students back into classrooms, according to the AP. The boycott left the body two legislators short of a quorum — and unable to do business.
Brown has stayed silent on the issue thus far. When it first reared its head back in 2020 — before lockdown issues were thrown into the mix — she declined to comment when reached by CNN. She’s not commenting now, either.
However, as Thursday’s boycott proved, she presides over a divided house.
Depending on what happens May 18, we’ll see whether divorce might be a resolution worth considering, strange as it may seem.
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