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California reigned for decades as the unmatched destination for people around the country. Now people can’t leave fast enough. Recently released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that between July 2021 and July 2022, California lost roughly 343,000 residents to other states. This number is a “domestic net migration” figure, meaning that 343,000 more Americans moved out of California over those 12 months than moved here from other states.
Where are they going? The number-one net migration winner over that period was Florida, which gained around 319,000 residents from other states.
It’s too easy to say exclusively that Newsom is driving people out of state and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is attracting them, but to the extent the two governors symbolize different approaches to taxation, regulation, and liberty, it holds true. People are leaving Newsom-like states and flocking to DeSantis-like states. If you want to handicap the 2024 presidential election, this is a good place to start.
The states shedding domestic population are progressive strongholds, with extensive regulatory regimens, strong public employee unions and other Democrat policy priorities. They are, simply, big government states. High tax, high cost of living states. Joining California in the top five net losers are New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
States attracting Americans are lower-cost, lower-tax, Republican strongholds. Trailing Florida in the top five net gainers are Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
And even if your individual tax burden is not too bad in California, big government, supported by high taxes (regardless of who pays them) indicates a mindset that the state should always be doing more and additional money for government is inherently good.
This bigger-is-better approach leads to government solutions in search of problems.
It’s why California government seeps into every crack of your life, blocking the exercise of what you can eat, what house you build, what car you drive, how much you keep of the money you earn, down to such trivialities as what drinking straws you can get in a restaurant. Do you feel as though you personally need government monitoring your straw usage, or is that a decision you are competent to make as an adult? Florida trusts you to choose your own straw, California does not.
The California government mindset drives up costs in every area of living. Looking at taxes alone doesn’t tell a complete story of government-imposed costs. How many taxes would have to move lower to make up for policy-driven expenses in California? Would a one-percent decrease make up for gas that’s two-dollars-a-gallon higher than the national average? Would slightly lower sales taxes offset electricity costs 80-percent higher than the national average? Exactly what tax would offset the cost of an $800,000 starter home, driven in part by extraordinary regulatory costs in our state?
California will always be desirable for the wealthy. I defy another state to produce a Yosemite, a Golden Gate, giant redwoods, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Santa Monica beach…the list of our wonders is long, if you can afford to enjoy them. But our unmatched beauty is apparently overwhelmed by policy failures of colossal dimension. People are voting with their feet and moving.
It says so much about our government’s misguided agenda that hundreds of thousands of people last year abandoned everything this state has to offer because of everything this state takes away. It’s time for an affordability revolution in California to turn us once again into a destination state.
Senator Ted Gaines (Ret.) was elected to represent the Board of Equalization’s First District. He is a leading taxpayer advocate, defender of Prop. 13, and is committed to providing trustworthy and transparent representation for nearly ten million constituents in 34 counties of northern, eastern, and southern California. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Gaines.