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The new red wave is already here

Call it a roaring red wave of the 2020s. And this time, it’s actually materialized, unlike during the red wave that was predicted for the 2022 midterm elections.

Recent U.S. Census data underscore a grim reality for the biggest blue states: More people are leaving states such as California, New York and Illinois than moving to them.

The exodus is real: California lost nearly 350,000 residents in 2022, while New York lost about 300,000 and Illinois saw more than 140,000 go elsewhere, per Census numbers. Other states, including New Jersey (-64,231), Massachusetts (-57,292) and Pennsylvania (-39,957), also saw large numbers of residents say goodbye.

But other states, such as Florida and Texas, saw large gains in population, with Florida adding an eye-popping 444,484 residents and Texas adding 470,708. Other population winners include North Carolina (99,796 residents added), South Carolina (+84,030), Tennessee (+81,646) and Georgia (+81,406).

Not coincidentally, all these southern states except North Carolina have Republican governors, while California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have Democratic governors.

U-Haul, America’s largest moving company, recently released data underscoring the Census data. California, the state with the most electoral votes (55), ranked last in terms of migration numbers. Illinois ranked 49th, just ahead of Michigan, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

In most of these states, the recipe for the exodus has three primary ingredients:

(1) Taxes. Californians’ earnings are taxed at 13.3 percent. Residents of New Jersey and New York see their earnings taxed at 10.75 percent and 8.82 percent, respectively. But if you live in Florida or Texas or Tennessee, your income is taxed at 0.0 percent.

(2) Crime: Things are so bad in progressive San Francisco that it fired its district attorney last year. New York saw a record 4,500-plus police officers resign as violent crime rose 22 percent from the year before. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot is in serious jeopardy of losing her reelection bid in Chicago, with 71 percent of voters saying that the city is headed in the wrong direction, according to one poll. Crime is the major reason why.

(3) Traffic. According to a study by U.S. News and World Report, the most congested cities in the country with the worst commutes are as follows: Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The post-COVID-19 world prompted many employers to embrace a work-from-anywhere model. Given how horrific commutes into and out of those cities can be, getting dozens of hours of time back every week makes workers happier and more productive.

Now, if employees wants to leave New York or Chicago or Los Angeles for Tampa or Dallas or Nashville, they may be able to do so without leaving their job, thereby fueling the exodus.

These migration patterns have huge consequences for state budgets, per the Internal Revenue Service. New York’s tax base, for example, decreased by $19.5 billion in 2020, while California saw $17.8 billion leave that year. Illinois lost $8.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Florida gained $23.7 billion in gross income while Texas saw $6.3 billion added to its state coffers. North Carolina ($3.8 billion), South Carolina ($3.6 billion) and Tennessee (2.6 billion) also all saw positive gains in tax revenue.

There are political ramifications to consider as well. The most recent Census resulted in Republicans gaining House seats. In a razor-thin majority, these extra seats were crucial in handing the GOP the majority.

The wealth of tax revenue coming from an influx of new residents has helped red state governors such as Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

Meanwhile, in New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing a $227 billion budget for fiscal year 2024. Compare that number to Florida’s proposed budget, which comes in at $115 billion.

Why the comparison to New York? Because Florida has a larger population (21.78 million) than the Empire State (19.84 million), yet it spends half as much money to run the state. “This is just people voting with their feet,” DeSantis said in November.

 Do we want a country that looks like California or Texas? One that mirrors New York or Florida?The next election may come down to the answers to questions as simple as these.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags California Chicago Florida income tax Lori Lightfoot Los Angeles Migration New York red wave Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis San Francisco state income taxes Texas US Census Bureau Washington D.C.

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