Poll: 3% of Willamette Valley voters think retaining eastern and southern Oregon in the state is worth the cost

A mere three percent of registered voters of northwestern Oregon think keeping eastern and southern Oregon in the state is worth the cost, according to a poll released today by SurveyUSA, a top-rated pollster. The poll of 1068 voters in Willamette Valley and the Oregon North Coast asked:

“On average, people living in eastern and southern Oregon pay less in state taxes per person than the average Oregonian because average incomes are lower in those parts of the state. State spending on highways is much higher per person in those parts of the state than average. This means that Oregon tax rates could be reduced if those counties were no longer part of Oregon.
How much are you personally willing to pay in taxes each year to have these counties remain a part of Oregon?”

They answered:

Nothing at all                                     47%

Less than $100 a year                     20%

Between $100 and $500 a year   8%

More than $500 a year                   3%

Not sure                                              23%

Citizens for Greater Idaho estimates that the cost of having low-income counties of eastern and southern Oregon remain in the state is much more than $500 annually, an amount that only 3% are willing to pay.  Due to the fact that lower income areas pay less income tax than higher income areas, the average northwestern Oregonian wage earner paid an extra $382 in taxes because eastern & southern Oregon counties were in the state in 2019, and an extra $187 annually because those counties have more state highways per capita, the group calculated. Those two subsidies alone total $562 annually. 

More in favor of moving the Oregon/Idaho border than opposed

The poll also asked, “If counties in eastern and southern Oregon vote to leave Oregon and become part of Idaho, do you think the state of Oregon should allow those counties to become part of Idaho? Or not allow those counties to become part of Idaho?”  When asked the question at the start of the poll, northwestern Oregonians are undecided, but somewhat more in favor than an OVBC poll found in June.  But when asked again at the end of the poll questions, after reading the advantages and disadvantages of moving the border, the proportion in favor outnumbered the number opposed:  16% were undecided, 46% in favor, and 37% opposed.  Of those who decided, 55% were in favor.  The idea garnered more support than opposition among both college graduates and high school graduates, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, and in every region of northwestern Oregon: metro, mid Valley, south Valley & mid Coast, and the North Coast. The idea received more support than opposition among conservatives, moderates, and “very liberal” voters.

The leader of the Greater Idaho movement, Mike McCarter, said “37% of voters said they want Oregon to maintain control over eastern and southern Oregon, but only 3% think the cost is worth it. Apparently, voters who are opposed are unaware of the cost of keeping the counties, or are unaware that the cost is not optional.  The only way to not subsidize these counties would be to stop maintaining state highways and forests there, stop fighting wildfires there, and charge them a far higher income tax rate than northwestern Oregon pays.  However, having different state income tax rates in different counties would be unconstitutional.  Perhaps if northwestern Oregon voters understood the magnitude of the cost of keeping these counties in Oregon, and the difficulty of reducing the cost, only 3% would be opposed to moving the Oregon/Idaho border, as only 3% said they were willing to pay the cost.  Portlanders don’t want to pay out of their pocket to maintain roads that another state is willing to maintain.” 

McCarter believes that Idaho will find the cost worth it because Idaho’s tax structure is different. According to the website of Citizens for Greater Idaho, greateridaho.org, the average incomes (2019 BEA PCPI) in eastern and southern Oregon are the same as the average incomes of Idaho, and “under Idaho’s low taxes and low regulation, those counties’ economy will surge so that they become a big benefit to Idaho’s budget.”

Oregonians want Legislature to research a greater Idaho

SurveyUSA asked “Should Oregon’s state government look into what the effect on Oregon would be if Oregon counties became a part of Idaho, and how the transition could be done smoothly?” 68% said yes, 20% said no, and 12% were not sure. 66% of Democrats said yes.

Similarly, the poll asked “Should Oregon’s state government look into the causes of discontent in eastern and southern Oregon, and then consider how the state government should respond?” A whopping 81% answered yes, 10% answered no, and 9% were unsure.  79% of Democrats answered yes.

Mike McCarter wants the Oregon Legislature’s Ways & Means committee to act. “We are now calling on Senators Hayward, Girod, and Hansell, and Reps. Rayfield and Greg Smith to use their positions to hold a hearing and create a study committee to respond to the results of this poll,” he said. Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) agreed, saying “this deserves a hearing.”

The poll also found that many Willamette Valley voters would move to eastern or southern Oregon if those areas became a part of Idaho.  11% said they were “very likely” and another 11% said they were “somewhat likely” to do so within 10 years in that case.  50% of conservatives said they were very or somewhat likely to move.

The Greater Idaho movement’s ballot initiatives have won elections in eight counties of eastern Oregon in the last 15 months.  The Idaho Legislature held a hearing for the movement in April, and Mike McCarter says that the Idaho Legislature will take action this winter. A Trafalgar Group poll found Idahoans strongly in favor of the movement in October.

SurveyUSA’s poll results are here: https://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=b528a251-17de-465c-91bb-db92cda11950

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