Opinion & Blogs

Lawmakers Must Confront New York’s Flee Circus

Andrew Cuomo

In a recent interview with CNYCentral, New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “We have young people coming back.”

Well, sort of. The more serious truth is that an alarming number of people, young and old, are still moving out of New York to live in other states.

According to United Van Lines, a St. Louis, Mo.-based moving company, the Empire State ranked as the third most- moved-out-of state in the country in 2017, finishing ahead of Illinois and New Jersey.

That is a gradual improvement from the post-recession years when it ranked second from 2012 to 2015. Still, it’s not exactly something to be proud of.

Despite Cuomo’s thinking, young people accounted for a large swath of those who left the state last year. Those between age 18 and 34 made up 20 percent, the 65-and-up group notched 23 percent, and those from age 55 to 64 were at 26 percent.

It’s not surprising that a quarter of those who left did so for retirement reasons. That number stays relatively constant every year, as aging baby boomers relocate to warmer states in the South and Southwest.

But the other constant number is the number of people who leave for job-related issues. In 2017, just like previous years, that was by far the No. 1 reason, cited by a staggering 47 percent of outbound New Yorkers.

Cuomo and other state lawmakers can say all they want that they’ve brought New York back from the ashes. But obviously a large section of the population, particularly those in upstate New York, believes economic problems persist and that they can perhaps live a better life elsewhere.

It should’ve sunk in back in 2014 when Florida surpassed New York as the third most populous state. Indeed, almost 70,000 New York state residents moved to the Sunshine State in 2015, according to PolitiFact.

It should’ve sunk in back in 2016 when we learned that the population of New York had actually declined for the first time in a decade.

And it should’ve sunk in back in December when U.S. census data made it official: The number of people who have moved out of New York since 2010 reached the 1 million mark, with 190,000 leaving last year.

This trend isn’t going to dramatically reverse any time in the immediate future, so there’s no reason to pretend that it isn’t a significant problem.

One of the largest frustrations in our politics today is that people feel that their elected officials aren’t being up front. We’ve reached a critical point where politicians need to start telling really hard truths. The people of New York are owed that much. And seriously addressing the mass exodus from this state is a necessary place to begin.

It’s necessary because the people already know it’s happening. They’ve seen their neighbor move away after their factory job was eliminated. They’ve seen their friend from downtown leave because their family can no longer sustain themselves with high taxes. They’ve seen their child graduate college and move to another state because it’s difficult to find opportunities here without rent costs taking most of their paycheck.

These valuable people take their work ethic and skills, spending money and tax dollars with them when they go. And that only leaves a larger burden for those who remain.

For those who are considering joining the mass exodus, it’s unlikely that Cuomo or any other politician from either party in this state who stands in front of a sign saying “Upstate Matters” is going to be the only thing that changes their minds.

The people of New York are patient. They know the state’s economic issues are not going to be solved overnight, and many feel the state has seen significant improvement in the last few years.

But that doesn’t mean the job is done. They want to believe their elected representatives still acknowledge the challenges New York faces. And the large number of people leaving the state is indeed one of its greatest challenges. We need to continue treating it as one.


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