By. Patrick Gleason
The Democratic Governors Association, in an attempt to attack Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) tweeted this week about how 33,000 people left Illinois for another state over the past year, continuing years of outmigration from the Land of Lincoln.
— Democratic Governors (@DemGovs) December 20, 2017
With that tweet, the DGA is trying to make the public dumber. The DGA knows full well that Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t run his state. That would be House Speaker Mike Madigan (D), who has presided over the decline of a once great state during his 34 years as Speaker. By attempting to pin Illinois’ continued decline on Gov. Rauner, the DGA is either ignorant about how Illinois politics works, or they are lying. Most likely the latter, but either way it’s not good.
The DGA wants to talk about the 33,000 people who have fled Speaker Mike Madigan’s Illinois over the last year. What they won’t be touting is the fact that during the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn (D), Rauner’s predecessor, 247,410 people on net left Illinois for the likes of North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states that are better stewards of taxpayer dollars. Those 247,410 people who left during Gov. Quinn’s time in office, according to IRS migration data, took $13.7 billion with them to states that that are better run and have lower taxes.
The DGA really doesn’t want to dive into interstate migration data, as it does not reflect well on their most prominent governors. Let’s start by looking at what has happened in California since Jerry Brown became governor again in January of 2011.
Since Gov. Brown was sworn in, becoming the oldest governor in state history, 243,099 people have fled California on net for other states, taking $7.794 billion with them to states that don’t have such high taxes and onerous regulations that make housing unaffordable for middle class households. The top recipients of Golden State refugees last year were Texas and Nevada, two states that have zero income tax. California, meanwhile, levies the highest top marginal income tax rate in the nation. Policy, like elections, has consequences.
The personal and corporate income tax hikes championed by Gov. Brown in 2012 have likely helped exacerbate the exodus of Californians. In a move that will further drive up the cost of living in one of the hardest states in which to get by, Gov. Brown approved an extension of the state cap & trade program earlier this year. This will hurt low and middle income households the hardest, who will face what is effectively a regressive tax hike in the form of higher gas prices and utility bills.
Cap & trade makes Gov. Brown, Democratic lawmakers who run the state legislature with such large majorities they don’t even feel the need to discipline sexual offenders in their caucus, and their supporters feel good about themselves. But the program doesn’t improve the environment. In fact, California, even with its cap & trade program and renewable energy mandate, is home to 8 of the 10 cities with the nation’s worst air pollution.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), a 2020 presidential contender, is another prominent Democrat who is chasing families and employers out his state with crushing taxes and onerous regulations. Gov. Cuomo is even so beholden to the fringe Left that he is leaving cleaning burning natural gas in the ground in the state’s southern counties. So while thousands of high-paying jobs are created just across the border in Pennsylvania and billions of dollars in revenue fills Keystone State coffers thanks to the Marcellus Shale, Gov. Cuomo is prohibiting his constituents from participating in that prosperity.
New York has the highest state and local tax burden in the country, consuming an average of 12.7% of household income before the feds even take their bite. This has consequences that Cuomo’s expensive StartUp NY commercials simply cannot overcome. Since Gov. Cuomo was sworn in, 577,286 people on net have fled New York for other states, taking more than $27 billion with them. The top recipient of ex-New Yorkers last year was Gov. Rick Scott’s Florida, which does not have an income tax.
And then there is the Chairman of the DGA, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. a man who will leave office next year with a legacy of having signed the two largest tax hikes in state history into law. It started with his very first budget in 2011, which included over two dozen separate tax hikes. Then, after being reelected in 2014 on a promise to not raise taxes again, Gov. Malloy enacted another massive tax increase. He signed that tax hike into law, even though General Electric warned him they would pick up their headquarters and move it out of state if Malloy approved that tax hike. Malloy told GE to shove off, so GE’s headquarters, and all of the high-paying jobs it supports, is now in Boston, Massachusetts.
Since Malloy took office in 2011, 73,676 people on net have left his state. That’s a lot of former Nutmeggers and they took $8.543 billion with them to states with more hospitable tax climates. Connecticut lawmakers avoided another tax hike this year by simply cutting Malloy out of budget negotiations, something that hasn’t happened in that state in decades. That’s the sort of “leadership” the DGA chairman has provided in his own state.
People are voting with their feet and we are seeing them vote in favor of states that have more limited government, lower taxes, and more sustainable levels of spending. As such they are leaving states run by Democratic governors and legislatures. That’s why it was odd for the DGA to think it a good idea to focus on migration data, as it does not bode well for Democrats.
The Internal Revenue Service under President Obama caused a stir when it announced in 2012 that it would no longer publish data on interstate migration of taxpayers and the income they take with them. After a great deal of pushback, the IRS backtracked and announced it would continue publishing migration data. However, many questioned the motive of the IRS’s original decision:
The IRS should be applauded for continuing to provide this data,” the Tax Foundation’s Joe Henchman wrote in a post for the non-partisan organization’s website at the time. “However, I’m immensely curious as to who ordered them to cancel it in the first place, and why.”
The DGA was grasping for a way to attack Gov. Rauner, but migration data is not an area they want to get into. As the numbers show, it reflects poorly on their governors. The Republican Governors Association, however, should want to shout IRS migration data from the rooftops, as it shows people and employers are moving by droves into states run by Republican governors like Rick Scott in Florida, Greg Abbot in Texas, Doug Ducey in Arizona, and others. The DGA, however, would do well to sit this one out.