By James Sinks

For The Hermiston Herald

SALEM — The way Rep. Tom Butler, R-Ontario, sees it, Oregon lawmakers need to either do a better job of helping the state’s east-side counties be economically viable or they need to cut Eastern Oregon loose.

“Why are we always the stepchild or stepcousin?” he said. “There has been a tremendous outreach from the west side but the bottom line is, we have more unemployment and less income.”

Butler wants to create a task force that would consider law changes in Eastern Oregon to help bolster the lagging economy, where unemployment in most counties is at least double that of the Portland metropolitan area.

He thinks relaxing land-use laws and charging less in taxes and fees on the east side would be a good start.

And if the task force can’t find a public policy solution to make Eastern Oregon match the job growth and employment of Western Oregon in six years, members would be required to recommend that Eastern Oregon be allowed to form a separate state. (For the full story see the May 1, 2001 issue of the Hermiston Herald.)

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