In the recent Oregon primary election, five Oregon counties — Sherman, Baker, Grant, Lake and Malheur — voted that they would like to be annexed to Idaho. They join Union and Jefferson counties, which voted in favor last November. All the counties were heavily Republican and with relatively small populations. In every county in which it appeared on the ballot, the proposition passed, and Idaho Governor Brad Little and the Idaho legislature have issued statements of support for the idea. There are many hurdles in the way of such a change, but what if it does eventually take place? Here's what a Welcome to Greater Idaho pamphlet might look like:
The moment is finally here! After multiple votes and long-running court cases, you are now citizens of the great state of Idaho. Here’s what you need to know right away:
• Starting today, you will have to pay a sales tax. All retail sales are taxable unless specifically exempted by Idaho or federal law, and the booklet that describes the exemptions is 123 pages long. Current sales tax is 6 percent for the state, but cities are allowed to add another 2.5 percent, and it appears all of your former Oregon cities have met that criteria, so your effective rate is 8.5 percent.
• On the bright side, you’ll pay less in state income tax. Idaho’s top bracket is 7.4 percent on income more than $10,417. Oregon’s top bracket is 9.9 percent on incomes over $125,000. And Idaho is lower in property taxes. But keep in mind you’ll now be paying all three — property, income and sales. It definitely helps to be in Idaho if you’re rich; not so much if you’re poor.
• You’re going to need a new Idaho driver’s license. Over the next six months, we’ll be mailing you your scheduled visit to the former Oregon DMV in your area for retesting.
• If your agricultural-based family has traditionally attended Oregon State University, be aware that you will now have to pay out-of-state tuition. The difference? In-state tuition is $11,715, while out-of-state tuition is $31,215, just shy of three times as much. However, in-state tuition at Idaho’s land-grant college, the University of Idaho, is just $8,304, as opposed to out-of state tuition, which is more than three times as much at $27,540.
• And just as a reminder, all those of you who proudly proclaim you are fifth-generation Oregonians or more, you are now first generation Idahoans.
• The Assimilation not only changes the political distance between your old counties and a state capital, it also changes the physical distance. People in Hood River County, just 107 miles from Salem, will now travel 369 miles to Boise, more than three times as far. Klamath Falls is 235.9 miles from Salem and 416.8 miles to Boise, turning a four-hour trip into a six hour, 42 minute trip. The break-even point is about 10 miles east of Hermiston. To the west, closer to Salem, to the east, closer to Boise.
• Socially, you are entering a much more comfortably conservative state. You won’t have to worry about your gun rights here. We don’t believe in much regulation, including outsiders imposing mask-wearing regulations. We’re proud of our independence, even if it costs us. That’s why we’ve had nearly the same number of COVID-19 cases as Oregon (190,900 to 199,356) despite having a population two and a half times smaller. And our death rate per million population was 1163.92, compared to Oregon’s 617.87.
• You may encounter some bumpiness in personal relationships. Idahoans have a divorce rate of 4.03 percent to Oregonians’ 3.36 percent.
• Your house may lose some value. Median owner-occupied home value in Idaho is $192,300 to $287,300 in Oregon.
• You’ll discover the joys of hauling yourself to your local polling place to vote. You can get an absentee ballot without any special eligibility requirements, but you’ll have to make an application for each election and remember that it must be received by election officials no later than the 11th day preceding the election.
• Good news — Idaho state gas tax is 33 cents a gallon, three cents less than Oregon. Of course, as a good independent person, you’ll enjoy getting out of that comfy car into rain, snow or blazing sun to pump it yourself, unlike the coddled drivers in Oregon.
• And great news if you own a small business. Minimum wage for your employees drops from $12.75 to $7.25 per hour, a 43 percent reduction in your wage expense.
• Finally, don't Bogart that joint. Don't even light one, because cannabis is illegal in Idaho for all practical purposes. Possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanor.
Rodger Nichols is a long-time radio and newspaper journalist living in The Dalles.