Probably few people were shocked to learn that New York State is about to fall behind Florida in the population game. The latest census report is simply more reason for state leaders to join Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s push to make staying up North more attractive to businesses and residents.
According to census estimates for July 1, New York (population 19,651,127) is barely clinging to its third place ahead of Florida (19,552,860). With Florida growing three times as fast as New York, the Sunshine State will soon take over third place. California (38,332,521) and Texas (26,448,193) safely remain the nation’s most populous states.
There is more than bragging rights at stake in the population shift. New York is steadily losing political clout. After the 2010 census, the state lost two congressional seats and Florida gained two. Also determined by population is federal funding for infrastructure, housing and health care and education.
The flight of New Yorkers, especially retirees, escaping our cold winters for Florida’s sunshine certainly hurts the state. But the inclement business climate is far worse for the state.
New York, under Cuomo’s governorship, is taking baby steps to change that environment. But the underlying costs of doing business in the state remain staggering compared to those in the Sun Belt. In particular, the state must address what can only be described as punitive taxation.
Cuomo has already started to make headway with such creative strategies as Start-Up New York, allowing businesses to locate tax-free for 10 years on or near college campuses. He pushed for the legalization of more casinos as a way to boost upstate’s economic bottom line.
The governor recognizes that turning the upstate economy around will lift the entire state. That’s why he has paid particular attention to Buffalo, with his Buffalo Billion promise. A huge piece of that commitment is the RiverBend project, where a $250 million state investment in a “clean energy” research and manufacturing park along the Buffalo River will leverage $1.5 billion in private funding.
Such commitment to this area has caused a stir among other regions that want the same treatment, but what they should remember is that the state’s second-largest city demands special attention after being ignored for so long. Buffalo is losing population, more than 10 percent since 2000. Cuomo’s efforts to revive the Western New York economy and bring jobs here could slow that trend, or even reverse it. That would be good for the entire state.
Still, the best way to boost the whole state is to reduce the taxes and over-regulation that drive people and business away.
One of the two tax-cutting commissions appointed by Cuomo reported back last month with a laundry list of recommendations for reducing taxes and reforming business taxes. Presumably many of these will make their way into Cuomo’s budget proposal.
New York can compete with the warmth and sunshine down South if it is able to provide a better business climate. Elected leaders must join together in this Empire State call to action.