Soaring Taxes, Bad Economy And High Cost Of Living Have Led To An “Empire State Exodus”

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
October 30, 2009

Many of my weekly legislative columns routinely focus on bread-and-butter “pocketbook” issues, such as the need for a stronger economy and creating more private sector jobs, cutting job-killing taxes, delivering real tax relief and reducing our state’s high cost of living. I continually call attention to these issues – and outline some of the real solutions I am advancing to address them – because these are the concerns that matter to New Yorkers all across our 129th Assembly District and entire state. At my public events and district office, I regularly hear from people who are genuinely concerned about how expensive it is to live, work and raise a family here in New York. As a father, grandfather, homeowner and taxpayer, I share their concerns!

It stands to reason that since New Yorkers are forced to pay some of the country’s highest income, property and business taxes, while weathering one of its least competitive and heavily-regulated economies, some would eventually look to live in another state that has more jobs and opportunities, as well as lower taxes and a less expensive cost of living. A new research bulletin released by the independent, non-partisan Empire Center for New York State Policy confirms this notion – and then some.

The Empire Center report, titled “Empire State Exodus,” found that for the better part of the past decade New Yorkers have been leaving for other states in record numbers. In fact, from 2000 to 2008, New York had America’s largest loss of residents to other states, totaling more than 1.5 million, translating into roughly eight percent of the state’s population from 2000 onward. The only other state to lose more than a million residents to out-migration was California. The Empire Center’s bulletin, based on data from the Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), outlined trends that should concern New Yorkers and illustrate the need for real change in our economic and taxation policies. Following are other findings from “Empire State Exodus.”


According to the Empire Center report, Florida was the top destination for 20 percent of New Yorkers who left our state during the period from 2000-07. While it might just be a coincidence, Florida also has no state income tax and, relatively speaking, a strong economy that is based largely on private sector jobs. With the bulletin’s revelation that Florida attracted a majority of migrating New Yorkers, it would be understandable to assume that its sunny climate was a big reason. While weather might be an issue for some, it does not tell the entire story. In fact, 40 percent of the taxpayers who migrated from the New York metropolitan region actually moved to other northeastern – and neighboring – states such as Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, all of which are decidedly outside the “sunbelt.”


In order to attach an economic dimension to the migration of so many New Yorkers, the Empire Center bulletin referenced IRS data on the adjusted gross incomes for those migrating households in the year after their move. The data showed that our state’s annual income loss attributable to migration varied from $3.9 billion in 2003, to $5.6 billion in 2005. The combined yearly net income losses for those who left our state from 2001 to 2007 amounted to approximately $30 billion. New York’s loss was Florida’s, New Jersey’s, Connecticut’s and Pennsylvania’s gain, from an income and economic perspective. Of course, the cumulative impact of the migration extends far beyond the financial realm – when New Yorkers leave our state in such numbers, it puts a serious strain on families who have to adjust as loved ones take up residence in a different state.


The Empire Center report concludes with a brief overview of the reasons why New York leads the other 49 states in terms of population migration. As expected, a primary reason cited by the bulletin’s authors is New York’s massive tax burden. When you consider that Florida was listed as the state of choice for migrating New Yorkers – and that, in addition to having no state income tax, it has property tax rates that are, on average, lower than those imposed here, the decision to leave is understandable. Other reasons given for the migration include high housing costs and restrictive government regulations on land use downstate, and a lack of economic opportunities upstate. Combined, these factors are like a perfect financial storm – but instead of producing rain, snow or gale force winds, they caused an exodus of our fellow New Yorkers. If we want to stem – or even reverse – this tide of migration, we must make cutting job-killing taxes, delivering real tax relief, creating private sector jobs and reducing the size, cost and reach of government top legislative priorities, as my Conference and I continue to call for. To read the Empire Center’s research bulletin “Empire State Exodus,” go to the Empire Center Web site.


On Thursday, I took part in a public, five-way meeting of Legislative Leaders convened in New York City by Governor David Paterson. Our focus was addressing New York’s current year budget deficit that has crept up to $3.2 billion and how we could close the shortfall. As I have done during our prior meetings, I referenced the “conversation starters” I had offered that, if implemented, would close the deficit through an emphasis on state government tightening its own belt first before beginning with deep and painful cuts in areas such as education and health care. I again urged my fellow Leaders to join me in recognizing the severity of the deficit and set partisanship aside so we could move forward with real solutions necessary to put New York State back on solid financial footing. Make no mistake – there are many tough decisions ahead.

As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at