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By EJ Antoni*
How the mighty have fallen. The latest Census Bureau data show the Empire State’s population drain continues, as people flee New York in droves.
From July 2021 to July 2022, 300,000 more people moved out of the state than moved in. New York had the largest population loss—in both percentage and absolute terms—experienced by any state during that period.
Sadly, this was both predictable and preventable.
In March 2021, a study of New York found that its already staggeringly high tax burden had worsened due to an increase in the top marginal tax rate to almost 15% for those in New York City. The study projected that the flood of people leaving would only accelerate—and it did.
Even before that study, the Empire State lost so many people that it cost New York a seat in Congress after the 2020 Census. This exodus is a direct response to New York’s obscenely high taxes.
Just how bad is it? Compared with other states, New Yorkers:
- Pay the highest total tax burden and highest share of personal income (14%) in taxes.
- Endure the second-worst overall business tax climate.
- Face the highest individual income tax rate and income tax collections per capita.
- Pay the second-highest state and local corporate income tax collections per capita.
- Have the fourth-highest property taxes and local sales tax rate (on average),
- Pay the highest cigarette taxes and ninth-highest gasoline taxes.
- Pay the sixth-highest capital-stock tax rate.
- Are tied for third-highest estate tax rate.
And what do New Yorkers get for all these taxes? Roads smooth as glass? The best airports in the world? Trains running on time? Bulletproof electric grid and water infrastructure? Ample police to maintain safety and order?
Not even close.
Instead, New York City residents face some of the highest crime rates in the world, thanks to soft-on-crime policies from liberal politicians. And people everywhere across the state are threatened by a looming municipal debt crisis. Notwithstanding its sky’s-the-limit tax policies, New York has accumulated the highest state and local debt per capita in the nation.
And the future is not bright. When people flee the state, they take their jobs and money with them. That hamstrings future revenue collection for a state that has never learned to spend within its means. But the days of being rescued by tycoons like J.P. Morgan are long gone. Absent a federal bailout, both New York state and New York City are on a collision course with first grade mathematics—and bankruptcy.
Sadly, too many New York politicians seem to have learned nothing from their repeated failures and instead are pursuing more of the same, reminiscent of the famous maxim about insanity. The Empire State’s tax on gasoline just rose 16 cents per gallon on Jan. 1—an apropos way for the nation’s highest-tax state to ring in the new year.
New York’s New Year’s resolution should be to give up on this fiscal folly and follow the fiscal lead of Florida, a state experiencing a population boom. While those hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were fleeing for greener pastures, the exact opposite happened in the Sunshine State. Florida welcomed 318,000 more people than left over that same time period.
What’s the attraction? While top earners in New York City pay almost 15% income tax to their state, Floridians pay their state nothing. In fact, whether income, sales or property taxes, Florida has New York beat by a mile. Comparing the state and local tax burden of the two states, a person with average earnings saves about $5,500 a year by moving to Florida. High earners save substantially more.
After 130 years of silently welcoming countless people into New York, one can imagine an Olympic-sized tear rolling down the cheek of the Statue of Liberty as she helplessly watches their descendants leave for far more tax-friendly regions of the country.
*EJ is a research fellow for Regional Economics in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and The Heritage Foundation.