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Can Gov. Newsom lure Floridians to California?

To: Gov. Gavin NewsomFrom: Columnist with trusty spreadsheet

Governor, I see you made an Independence Day TV ad attempting to lure Floridians to the Golden State.

“I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight. Or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom — freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hate and the freedom to love,” you say in the 30-second spot.

I’ll assume some of this is mere political showmanship. I’ll bet it’s also personal, since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t shy about tossing barbs your way.

Yet I’m hoping there’s old-fashioning salesmanship — fishing for relocations — lumped into this message.

I filled my trusty spreadsheet with some taxpayer migration data from the IRS for tax year 2020 — the latest available — to check the odds of a Floridian leaving the Sunshine State for elsewhere in the U.S.

Governor, my handicapping shows Floridians are more eager to bolt than you might think. But despite all of California charms — natural and manmade — it’s been challenging to get folks to move to the Golden State.

Solid target

As a caveat, let’s remember taxpayer stats don’t include those who didn’t file — a flock that’s typically at the lower end of the income spectrum.

And remember that size matters. Florida is a solid target with 16.9 million taxpaying households in 2020, No. 3 in the nation. California’s 32.2 million was No. 1.

In that year, Florida lost 456,993 taxpayers to relocations, the third-largest “exodus” among the states. Don’t forget, California’s 676,058 exits were No. 1.

But when you look at departures as a share of the population, there was a 2.7% chance a Floridian left the state, the 23rd lowest exit rate.

And as I often note, proportionally few people leave California. Yes, no exodus. Its 2.1% exit rate was seventh-best in the nation.

Good place to move?

So, is California any good at attracting other Americans? In a word: No.

Yes, California drew 412,700 taxpayers from other states in 2020, the nation’s third-largest intake. Florida’s 623,700 additions were No. 1.

But ponder this influx as a slice of the population. There was only a 1.3% chance a Californian’s new neighbor was from another state in 2020 — the smallest share of new residents in the nation. Florida’s 3.7% attraction rate was 16th best.

Look, it’s no secret that money matters are California’s relocation headache.

For example, IRS stats show the taxpaying Floridians departing in 2020 had $68,100 in average adjusted household gross income, No. 29 among the states. Would you expect those kinds of paychecks to be well-prepared for California’s lifestyle sticker shock?

And look who did move to California in 2020 from across the nation: households with $83,100 in average annual incomes.

Not impossible

Life isn’t just about cash. And Floridians do move to California.

In fact, 21,855 left the Sunshine State for the Golden State in 2020, the sixth-largest source of new Californians. Texas lost the most taxpayers to California at 38,445, then New York at 32,483, Washington at 28,578, Arizona at 25,326, and Nevada at 24,827.

And only four states drew more ex-Floridians than California — Georgia at 47,719, then Texas at 38,192, North Carolina at 32,711, and New York at 26,902.

Politically speaking

Now let’s look at hot-button issues that might drive an interstate relocation decision.

Florida has no income tax, certainly a financial lure for many folks. California taxes are … well, you know … California taxes.

In fact, California had 231,000 taxpayers move to Florida or the seven other states with no income taxes — Alaska, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Tax-free destinations represented 34% of all California departures.

Governor, you’ll be pleased income taxes weren’t on the mind of most departing Floridians. Just 57,000 of its 2020 departures were to states without income taxes — or 12%.

Now, Florida’s a red state but does that influence their next destination?

In 2020, 46% of ex-Floridians went to states that supported Donald Trump in the presidential election that year. And if you think red-state life is what the typical ex-Californian wants, only 39% of those who left went to Trump-supporting states.

And let’s use the prism of how LGBTQ communities are treated, at least legislatively.

Only 29% of Florida exits were to one of the 15 states seen by the Movement Advancement Project as most dedicated to LGBTQ rights. California — lauded for its “high” protections, by the project — saw 36% of taxpayers relocate to LGBTQ-friendly states.

Or reproductive rights. In Florida and California, 25% of 2020 exits were to the 12 states considered “protective” of the right to an abortion by the Guttmacher Institute.

Governor, California’s economic future is heavily tied to its ability to attract the best and brightest to the state.

The more recruiting done from your bully pulpit, the better. Even if it’s only election-year theatrics.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]

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