The Idaho House on Wednesday voted to open the door to future talks about moving the Idaho border to include Eastern, Southwestern and much of Central Oregon. It’s been called “Greater Idaho” movement — an effort by those dissatisfied with lawmakers in Salem who hope to live under Idaho’s more conservative government.
But a constitutional law professor in Oregon says there is still a long way to go and puts he odds of the move ever happening at zero.
Idaho lawmakers passed the bill 41-28 that states “the Idaho Legislature stands ready to begin discussions with the Oregon Legislature regarding the potential to relocate the Oregon/Idaho state boundary.”
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Norman Williams, a professor of constitutional law at Willamette University, says the bill is “unimportant” since a majority of the Oregon Legislature has shown no interest in talking.
“Because all the vote does is say we’re willing to talk with the Oregon legislature about this. The Oregon legislature has indicated no interest in talking with Idaho about changing the borders,” Williams said.
Williams added that Republicans in the Idaho House were not unanimous. Seventeen voted against it. The bill must also pass the Idaho Senate.
Even if it gets through the Idaho Legislature, Williams says it has to be approved by Oregon and by Congress.
Providing some historical perspective, North and South Carolina moved their border in 2018 to accommodate fewer than 20 homes. Williams said that effort took a decade and cost millions of dollars.
He estimates the Idaho-Oregon border move would be in the range of $18 billion to $20 billion for things like:
- The land Oregon currently owns
- The assets Oregon owns (offices, colleges, universities, prisons)
- Pension obligations of state and local government officials
“I suspect that once Idaho is told by Oregon that it would be expected to cough up billions of dollars as a result of this, that the political support in Idaho will evaporate,” Williams said.
Greater Idaho movement organizers says its asking the Oregon Legislature to give a hearing to the idea. It cites that 11 counties have voted in support for moving the border.