Some stories are worth a deep dive into data and analysis. Some only seem that way.
The movement to form the new state of Greater Idaho from Idaho, most of Oregon and a swath of northern California falls into the latter category.
One reader was interested in finding out the economics of the scheme. How much money, for example, does Oregon receive from the 15 counties that would shift from Oregon to Greater Idaho, and how much does the state provide to those counties?
That’s an intriguing question, and I was preparing to find the answer. But finding the revenues going back and forth between the counties and the state is not a simple nor easy task and spans money from taxing districts to the state gas tax to hunting and fishing fees. And doing the story properly would mean finding the same information for Washington and California.
We’re in the midst of a pandemic, plus a social justice movement the likes of which the country and the world has not seen since the height of the civil rights movement, and we’re covering those. Then there is this idea from some folks that making most of Oregon into the state of Greater Idaho is what we need to do, and they have pushed counties to hold public meetings about this.
The U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, specifies the creation of a new state:
“New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.”
Aside from the logistics of getting three state legislatures to agree, there is Congress.
I also find it odd how Oregon supporters of Greater Idaho are OK with a state sales tax. Oregonians have voted down a statewide sales tax time and again. There is no way Greater Idaho won’t have a sales tax. California, Washington and Idaho have sales taxes, so you bet the big new state would as well.
It would need such revenue to support programs across such a big, rural state where Boise would be the largest population center at less than 230,000 people.
But aside from those hurdles, there are maybe psychological or emotional considerations.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and Oregon’s only national park. Seriously, it’s an Oregon landmark. Crater Lake, Greater Idaho? Come off it.
Likewise, the Columbia River Gorge, the amazing Alvord Desert, and closer to home the Eagle Cap Wilderness all become features for a different state.
Let’s say this thing actually gains traction in state legislatures — because that is where the action is going to have to happen. How long before this breaks down over the name Greater Idaho? Oregon is the ninth largest state by area, Idaho is at 14th, Washington is 18th. California would lose a chunk. This new state requires most of Oregon, so why not call it Greater Oregon?
According to the movement’s website, supporters “want the voices of these mostly rural areas to be heard in our state capital and not be drowned out by the large cities and urban areas.”
Sounds like: We want to be around politically like-minded people. So that raises the question: Why not just move to Idaho?
That “love it or leave it” notion is nothing more than a false dilemma, the logical fallacy that posits either-or positions and ignores other relevant possibilities. But the notion of Greater Idaho does the same thing, only instead of asking people to move out of state, it seeks to move the borders. I’m not convinced that’s a solid reason to reform this corner of the United States.
Given all that, until Greater Idaho shows the promise of becoming a reality, I can’t devote our newsroom to giving this effort much coverage.