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Love Letter to Our Neighbors — Idaho is Open for Your Business

Article by C.L. Butch Otter, Governor of Oregon. Published on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 EST.

Idaho Governor Invites Struggling Washington Businesses to Beat Taxes and Cross the Line 

C.L. “Butch” Otter, governor of Idaho.

UPDATE, OLYMPIA, March 9.–Gov. Christine Gregoire responded with a bit of acid to a column issued by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter suggesting that Washington business might be able to avoid high taxation if they relocate to the Gem State. She told reporters Tuesday:
           “I have a call into him today, and I’m not an expert on Idaho, but it looks like they have a corporate tax of 7.6 percent, a sales tax of 6 percent, an income tax ranging from 1.6 to 7.8 percent, and let’s talk about Forbes’ ranking [for business environment]. We’re now the second-best state in the country, and they went from seventh to 11th. They’re going down in the rankings. In regulatory environment, we are ranked fifth; they’re ranked 35th. You get my point?
            “So I intend to say the governor, I’ll go recruit companies that you have in your state, everything is fair game. But to suggest that somehow there’s this massive tax going on in my state that puts business to a detrimental level compared to yours is simply not fair.”

by C.L. “Butch” Otter
Governor of Idaho           

It’s true that a rising tide lifts all boats. But how those boats are handled makes a big difference when the tide is out and the waters get rough.

            State governments across the country are dealing with the continuing national recession in different ways. In Idaho, our focus is on stability. Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what our employers need in order to maintain their operations through this rough patch, and it’s what employers elsewhere are looking for when they consider expanding or relocating.

            Other states, however, have chosen some interesting and in my view counterproductive approaches. Last month, for example, Oregon voters approved their legislature’s decision to raise taxes on the wealthy and on many businesses by $727 million. The immediate result was that my phone started ringing – and so did phones over at our Department of Commerce. It seems that word has spread about our Project 60 initiative, and that we are open for business, including theirs!

            The businesses that have called are emotional about this subject, and they have every right to be. Rising costs – especially during a recession – could put some employers out of business, or at least prompt layoffs. More than 2,000 Oregonians joined a Facebook group to protest the tax increase and commiserate about the repercussions. No less an Oregon business icon than Nike’s Phil Knight calls it “Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law II.”

            Legislators in the state of Washington are talking about even bigger tax increases to tackle a budget deficit that figures to be as big as Idaho’s entire State budget. Businesses in both states are like those in Idaho; they are facing the most challenging times in decades, and even incremental cost increases can mean the difference between surviving and closing up.

            The problem in Oregon is that folks were convinced that state government was what needed to be shored up rather than the jobs- and revenue-producing private sector for which state government is supposed to work. As a result, they’re chasing some of their cash cows to the border. And I welcome those businesses with open arms.

            We now are reaching out to hundreds of Oregon businesses, and will do the same with those in Washington if the legislature there follows Oregon’s lead. We aren’t offering many bells and whistles, but what we can offer is a business-friendly State government, a highly qualified and motivated work force, and communities where people understand that while government cannot be the solution to their problems it can and must be a champion for their own solutions.

            Businesses small and large are the backbone of Idaho’s economy. They employ our citizens, who in turn can provide for their families. Businesses and individuals also pay reasonable taxes that enable State and local governments to provide such essential services as public schools and public safety. And make no mistake: Any business that doesn’t pass along its operating costs to consumers – including their tax bills – doesn’t stay in business for long.

            Of course, Oregon businesses can choose to accept their higher tax burden, and many will. After all, I understand that the quality of life over there is pretty good. But they have nothing on Idaho in that regard.

            For those Oregon businesses facing a decision about whether to lay off employees or close their doors entirely, I have a proposal: Move to Idaho. The Tax Foundation rates our corporate tax burden at 17th in the nation, compared to Oregon’s ranking of 31st.   Our individual tax burden is lower, too. Those kinds of numbers can make a real difference to a bottom line.

            For Oregonians reading this: Find the best Idaho community for your business by visiting us online at Or call our Department of Commerce toll free at 1-800-842-5858 for details about available land, buildings and incentives.

            I’ll continue to share information wherever I can about Project 60 and our business-smart state. Find out what so many folks already know – Idaho is a great place to live, to work, and to create career-path jobs and opportunities.


Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter will issue his Project 60 Update monthly, providing information about ongoing job growth and business expansion throughout Idaho.

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