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Migration Inflation: The Blue State Exodus Continues

Can Democrats take a page from the GOP playbook to slow a troubling trend?

Americans are on the move, mostly from states run by progressive Democrats. Internal migration is proving that lower taxes and lighter business regulations – among other factors – are driving people from places like Illinois, California, and New York to friendlier climes.

Blame the weather or the wealthier retirees if you must, but something is encouraging the settled to uproot and go west – or south – in search of a better life.

Inflation of Migration?

The state of Illinois is losing residents at an alarming pace – and not just those escaping the violence or cost of living in Chicago. It seems all counties in the Land of Lincoln are watching folks wander into Indiana or Iowa to seek solace. “The state’s population dropped by 32,826 residents from July 2022-July 2023 in 87 of Illinois’ 102 counties,” according to US Census Bureau estimates released March 14.

“Of the Illinoisans who left the state on net, 97% moved to lower-tax states in 2022,” reported the Illinois Policy Institute.

Governor J. B. Pritzker immediately went on the defense, blaming it on poor math skills within the Census Bureau: “I’m pleased that the Census Bureau has recognized the undercounting that I and many members of Illinois’ Congressional Delegation have worked to remedy since the 2020 census results were first released,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Chicago and Cook County waved goodbye to 24,494 tax-paying citizens, but even folks south of the Windy City couldn’t take the pain, so they waved the white flag, fleeing for their financial lives. “It is affecting every corner of the state,” said Bryce Hill, Fiscal and Economic Research director. “It’s not just a Chicago problem, it’s not just a downstate problem, it’s affecting communities across the state.”

Doubling down on the number one reason residents say they are leaving – taxes – Hill continued: “If lawmakers don’t take steps to reduce the crippling burden of taxes on residents, people will likely continue to leave Illinois as they have done for the past decade.”

In the top inbound states – excluding Arizona and Nevada – Republicans control the legislature. “For the outbound states, Democrats control the legislatures of seven out of ten states,” the think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) concludes. “Therefore, there seems to be strong evidence that just based on political party control at the state level, millions of Americans are moving away from blue-controlled states to red states.”

Not So Fast

The GOP loves these kinds of findings. The party will tell you it’s because Democrats are willfully destroying working and middle-class Americans, but that isn’t entirely true. On a closer look, those red states are littered with municipalities run by progressive mayors and councils. Could it be that a mash-up of red and blue could be the real Utopia? For many of those fleeing the progressive mess of their home states, it certainly seems so.

Each red state’s tried-and-true conservative policies provide a general business climate of prosperity and equal opportunity through lower taxes and minimal regulations. But enter Democrats: They tend to flock to the cities, influence how the schools are run, and create social diversity and a community atmosphere. Conservatism, therefore, is somewhat dulled down by DEI and far-left radical ideologies. For a progressive, it’s the best of both worlds. But even the tenuous relationships between the state and the locals are beginning to unravel. Thanks to COVID, parents got a good look at the public education system and are diligently attempting to turn the policies around through the local school boards. In all 50 states, there is a concerted effort to bring the “three Rs” back as the primary focus.

Another consideration is that taxpayers who are toying with migration outbound to a red state worry about the overall health of a state. US News and World Report released a report based on “fiscal stability.” It included line items such as credit ratings, public pension liabilities, asset liquidity, and a state’s budget management. According to the report:

“Six of the top inbound states are ranked in the top 10 US states for the highest level of fiscal stability (Tennessee, Idaho, Utah, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas). Three of the top ten outbound states were among the five US states with the worst fiscal stability rankings – Illinois (No. 50 for fiscal stability), New Jersey (No. 49), New Mexico (No. 47), and Connecticut (No. 46). The average fiscal stability ranking for the top ten inbound states was 15 (top one-third) compared to an average ranking of 38 for the top ten outbound states (bottom one-quarter), suggesting that the fiscal condition of the top inbound states is significantly more stable and sound than the condition of the outbound states.”

The question remains: Will migration trends water down conservatism, or can the delicate balance of ideologies survive? As AEI advises, perhaps deep blue states should take a page out of the GOP playbook and cut out the fat in their governments.

Read More From Sarah Cowgill

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