WILFORD: Gavin Newsom Has His Head In The Sand About Taxpayers Fleeing California

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Andrew Wilford Contributor
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During the recent debate between Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and Ron DeSantis of Florida, Newsom claimed that there were “more Floridians going to California than Californians going to Florida.” Not only is Newsom wrong about that, he’s wrong in a way that reflects a dangerous level of ignorance of the trends directly threatening California and other states embracing the same policies.

According to the latest American Community Survey data, 50,701 Californians moved to Florida in 2022, while 28,557 Floridians moved to California. Taking Newsom’s claim at face value, he’s flat out wrong.

Though he didn’t actually say this, one can charitably assume that Newsom was trying to repeat a claim he’s made in the past that more Floridians moved to California per capita than vice versa. That’s true, but also meaningless. 

After all, if Newsom wants to factor in the difference in population between Florida and California, it only makes it more embarrassing for California that it gained far fewer new residents (475,800) in 2022 than Florida did (739,000). It also does little to explain why California lost nearly twice as many residents as it gained, while Florida gained on net. California’s migration woes can hardly be chalked up to the fact that it is just a big state.

The picture only gets worse when one considers why states care about interstate migration: the impact on their tax bases. In that regard, there can be no debate — Florida is winning and California is losing.

Based on the IRS numbers from the first year of the pandemic, 23,117 taxpaying households with $4.6 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) moved from California to Florida, compared to just 12,455 households with $1.1 billion in AGI moving the other way. That’s $3.5 billion on net fleeing California — and that’s only between those two states.

In total, California lost, on net, over 158,000 taxpaying households with $29.1 billion in AGI in that one year. Florida, on the other hand, gained over 128,000 taxpaying households with a staggering $38.2 billion in AGI on net. Considering that these are net figures, the difference in size between the states does nothing but highlight the degree to which taxpayers are fleeing California for Florida.

The impact of these kinds of massive shifts on a state’s fiscal health is significant indeed. Migration effects increased the size of Florida’s tax base by over five percent in that one year, while causing California’s to shrink by around two percent. When a state like California loses its cash cows to other states, it tends to double down by trying to extract further tax revenues from those residents it has left — a vicious cycle. 

Unfortunately for those Californians left in the state, Newsom’s attempts to obfuscate these clear trends suggests that he, and other tax-and-spend governors facing the same situation in other states, would prefer to keep their heads in the sand and pretend that taxpayers are not voting with their feet. It’s a convenient form of ignorance that allows them to carry on as before even as more and more taxpayers get fed up and leave.

Clearly, Newsom is determined to ignore the clear message that taxpayers are sending that they are tired of being overtaxed. Policymakers in other states considering following California’s lead should take more heed of the consequences.

Andrew Wilford is the Director of the Interstate Commerce Initiative at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to tax policy research and education at all levels of government.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.