CT News Junkie | OP-ED | A Troubling Trend: Connecticut Is Losing People

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OP-ED | A Troubling Trend: Connecticut Is Losing People

by | Jan 9, 2015 6:30am
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Posted to: The Economy, Opinion

CTNJ file photo


Amid all the bad economic news our state has weathered since 2007 and beyond, at least we could be reassured that Connecticut’s population was still growing, albeit slowly. Add 2014 to the list of years featuring bad news. Our state is officially losing people.

According to U.S. Census estimates, Connecticut is one of six states that actually lost population over the last two fiscal years. No, we’re not as bad as Illinois, which chased even more people out, but even with Alaska, which lost 0.07 percent of its population.

The reasons for the exodus of nearly 2,700 people out of Connecticut appears quite simple. Despite a recent uptick in employment, job creation remains slow, sales and income taxes are high relative to other parts of the nation, energy costs are out of this world and affordable housing is becoming scarcer by the month.

Furthermore, the regulatory burden imposed on commerce, which UConn economist Fred Carstensen has called “the worst permitting regime in the country,” does not make Connecticut an attractive place in which to do business. And rather than reform our system to attract employers, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has taken to offering special tax and loan deals — some call it bribery — to entice certain favored corporations into moving or remaining here.

Perhaps the more interesting questions focus on the implications of population loss and whether fleeing the state is the answer for workers and young people. In an op-ed last week in The Courant, Orlando J. Rodriguez, a legislative analyst at the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, noted that most of the recent modest increases in the state’s population were because of increases in Connecticut’s Latino community. But it looks like that trend has ground to a halt.

On the one hand, Rodriguez added, maybe losses in population aren’t all bad. There will be less congestion on the state’s highways and the demand for land will diminish, reducing the need for suburban sprawl. And with fewer students to serve, public schools will be less expensive to run.

On the other hand, a state that’s losing population is a state in decline. Less construction means fewer jobs. And the graying of the population means fewer young people will be working to support the benefits needed by a growing elderly population.

Connecticut is down to five congressional districts, having lost one after the 2000 Census. Do we really want to lose more clout in Washington with only four districts? And for you progressives out there, that lost district will likely go to a red state.

The larger question for those fleeing Connecticut is whether the grass is truly greener. There is no question that southern and midwestern states have a lower cost of living and, typically, lower taxes. However, wages are also lower. So do Nutmeggers relocating to, say, Texas come out on top?

Even if it’s a wash, New Englanders who hate the cold (who doesn’t this time of year?) still come on on top. And while those blue states on the coasts have higher average incomes, studies have shown the red states typically have a more favorable income-to-housing-cost ratio. But the social services of the red states aren’t as generous, so if you’re poor or someone who depends on public assistance, they can be miserable places to live.

Furthermore, the American Dream of owning a good-sized home with a yard and a pool is typically more achievable for workers in Oklahoma City than in Cape Cod or Fairfield County. Granted, the schools probably won’t be as good in South Carolina or New Mexico, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that lots of people in the northeast don’t really care.

Ironically, income inequality has grown fastest over the past three decades in blue states. In 1979, reports urban studies theorist Richard Florida, the most unequal states were poor conservative states — Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia. By 2012, New York, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts joined Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee among the 10 most unequal states.

It’s not hard to understand why people are fleeing for warmer climates and more opportunity. Look no further than this other new nugget of census information: Florida just passed New York as the third largest state by population.

For now, I’m bucking the trend. I’ll fight the cold, the taxes, and my electricity bill for the privilege of living in a beautiful state that takes care of its neediest and offers abundant cultural opportunities.

On second thought, I think I’d be willing to move to any state that doesn’t raid its transportation fund.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(17) Archived Comments

posted by: redlady | January 9, 2015  11:12am

The loss of revenue caused by the exit of our retirees is substantial. When asked on-air a few weeks ago, freshman Senator Mae Flexer was asked to propose legislation to abolish income tax on retiree income. The answer was only shocking in the fact that it contradicted her campaign speeches of “there is no deficit in CT; that’s a Republican platform and untrue; I’m proud of my Representative record of contribution to ending the deficit”.  Her answer to the question on air in December, following her election: “No, we won’t be able to do that - due to the deficit we are facing”.  The only thing to do is pick up and go because the majority in this state has chosen this kind of leadership.  Try as we might, conservatives are too few and far between to make a difference fast enough to protect our own wealth or liberty.  The Democrats cannot resist putting their hands in our pockets to feed their habit of spending/borrowing/debt. The outnumbered Republicans can’t get a foothold to make the necessary changes to turn the state around.

Then, there’s the continuing infringement on freedoms. It’s not just gun legislation. It’s all sorts of intrusive decision-making from the top. Many folks have gone to NH because they can hold on to some of their personal freedoms, escape taxation, and stay close by family at the same time enjoying their four seasons. So, it isn’t necessarily about the weather. Unfortunately, as this happens more and more we lose good conservative values out of the voting booth. Eventually, there’ll be nothing left buy entitled and those that control them.

posted by: MyOpinion | January 9, 2015  11:44am

The loss of CT’s population is a direct reflection of the states Tax & Spend policies. Tax everybody and company to death & spend every dime and more on worthless projects and Politician salaries. For the size of CT, Government is too BIG, and Spending is too high on non ROI items. Transportation is a major issue, but it’s because of the sloppy awards that cost too much & take too long to complete. It’s Governments funding of programs without sufficient auditing controls that allows the programs to grow continually.  It’s allowing Government to intrude on Business & Personal lives where it doesn’t belong.  Downsize Government and stop making people believe that larger Government is for the own good and over providing to them!

posted by: dea | January 9, 2015  12:20pm

I would have left Connecticut 4 years ago except that i couldn’t get a reasonable price for my house, tried again last year, house was worth even less. I know others in the same situation.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | January 9, 2015  2:08pm

All of the previous commenters are leaving out one of the biggest problems CT faces - a bipartisan problem that gives businesses pause and is a reason that I despair for the future of the state I love - CORRUPTION. This isn’t a Republican or a Democratic problem. Each party points at the other party’s infractions while enabling or covering up for those who are guilty in its own ranks. We can’t solve any of the problems that any of you mention until we face up to this.

posted by: Jim in Mfg | January 9, 2015  2:38pm

Shortly after the first election of Malloy, I proposed to the Governor’s office that one way to help close that big deficit was make all Connecticut public pension payments subject to CT income tax.  Since the wages were earned in CT (from taxpayers) the pension should be considered to originate in CT and thus a CT pensioner living in FL or TX would still have to pay CT income tax like the rest of us.  Seems only fair to me.  I did not get a response from the Governors office nor the Comptrollers office.

Three years later, Gov Malloy tossed the CT Teachers a bribe of exempting their pension from CT income tax.  He is supposed to be our Governor, not the Public Unions servant.

posted by: ocoandasoc | January 9, 2015  3:13pm

I’m one of the escapees, retired and living in Nashville.  I was “lucky” enough to sell my house – for exactly what I paid for it 22 years earlier. The cost of living here is 38% lower than in Hartford.  Virtually every service, commodity, and utility is significantly less.  Gasoline is $1.79 a gallon. No income tax. No car tax. I bought a nicer home in Metro Nashville than I had in CT for half the price and my property tax bill went from $6,000 to $1,500.
Let me clear up some myths that New Englanders delude themselves with. Healthcare in TN is better and much less expensive than in CT (check the list of “Blue Ribbon” hospitals – there are MANY more in the Southern states than in New England, and look at the difference in Obamacare rates – CT’s are almost double!). And while CT has some of the best schools in the country, they also have many of the worst. Nashville’s public schools are far better than Hartford’s or Bridgeport’s, and President Obama visited recently and gave us a pat on the back. We even gave him the idea of free community college education, because here in TN EVERY high school graduate gets two FREE years of college. Tuition is also much lower in the private schools here and in the State’s public universities.  And while salaries in CT still average a bit higher, the South is catching up quickly, Salary growth over the last two years in the Nashville area was more than five times better than that of Hartford. (Take out State and municipal workers in CT that are paid a far higher wage than those here in TN and the salary difference almost disappears!) Services to taxpayers and the needy is also a red herring. While it’s true in the rural areas of TN and the South where there are almost no services, here in growing cities like Nashville the services for the poor, homeless, immigrants, etc. – and for middle class retirees—are clearly better than in CT’s major cities.
I could go on. Our State, municipal and teachers pensions are 92% funded (CT’s are less than 50%) and our per capita debt is about $900 (CT’s is over $10,000). And don’t discount the climate! We have four seasons but I’ve been here 18 months and haven’t had to use the snow shovel yet. Cultural, sports, entertainment and dining options here can be compared to Boston and New York’s – and you don’t have to drive two to three hours to get to them. City government here in Nashville is a Mayor and Council arrangement with NO political parties. And right now their only real problems are how to handle the growth in population and transportation as all these damn Yankees resettle here.
My wife and I loved living in CT for 38 years and raising my family there. But after my kids moved for better opportunities and we approached our “fixed income” days, we realized that a much better quality of life was available to us elsewhere.

posted by: jasonjortiz | January 9, 2015  3:43pm

“offers abundant cultural opportunities.”

Really? Maybe if you’re over 65 and want to look back on the 1800s we do, but for anyone looking for a nightlife the state has next to nothing.

Young people are leaving because there’s no reason to stay.

posted by: Greg | January 9, 2015  5:27pm

Sarah- CT does not have a monopoly on corruption, and despite my partisan desire to say we live in a crony Democrat stronghold, my travels have revealed we are not special.

You’d be surprised…

Out in the cornfields of Kansas the folks there complain about rampant corruption, political favors, cronyism…all the same tunes we speak of here.  Arkansas is worse as it’s an good-ol’-boy’s-club not far evolved from the old dixie days.  Oklahoma is known for being extremely dirty and at times violently so.  Same with Missouri, with the City of St. Louis being a well oiled political machine.  Illinios puts us to shame.

Believe me, CT is far from having a corner on the corrpution market…but I do agree with you totally.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | January 9, 2015  9:14pm

Finally…someone is discussing the declining state population issue!  We can debate the “Whys” all day. What needs to be discussed is the subsequent decline in the tax base as families and businesses beat feet for more sane states.  Hartford is NOT going to reduce their spending as the tax base declines.  In fact, Hartford WILL be raising taxes, fees, whatever they want to call it when they increase the states revenues.  That rising tax burden gets spread over a declining population and guess what?  MORE taxpayers leave CT as more of their disposable income goes to the state.  The tax base falls further.  The tax burden for the remaining taxpayers rises… MORE people leave.  It’s a death spiral.  Of course the Idiots in Hartford™ pin their hopes on a rising state economy of sufficient strength to mask all their failed policy decisions and reverse the taxpayer exodus.  Not gonna happen.
CT is a failed state measured by every metric that defines a healthy US state.  The state is at the bottom of all the Good state surveys and at the top of all the bad state surveys.

CT would do well to start its own 12-Step Program and begin with step #1…We admit we are powerless over our outrageous taxation, spending, regulation, corruption and graft and that our lives have become unmanageable.

@HypocriLib

posted by: dano860 | January 9, 2015  11:04pm

Redlady, one only has to know the person that made those remarks. What bothered me was that she wasn’t even challenged by the host on the ridiculous remarks.
Fred “I deleted it but can’t remember” Carstensen has never made a comment that I liked but he is right on that point. Permitting in this State is abhorrent.
Mr. Rodriquez, you are an analyst? Fewer people on the highways? Hold off on those transportation fix up Dannel! Schools less expensive to operate? No need to pour any more money into that bottomless hole. As far as suburban sprawl, the Latino community has never been part of that problem. Deep thoughts though not to relevant.
I would love to flee the State but the wife still works and the grand kids are close. I wouldn’t feel as though I had accomplished ‘a poke in the eye’ move unless I could afford to tear down the house and keep the empty lot. Other wise your just filling your space with another unfortunate tax payer.
SDL, I don’t know for sure but aren’t we running a close second to Illinois on the corruption front? It sure seems it. Mayors, Governors, legislators, candidates and who or what else we just don’t know today.

posted by: wmwallace | January 9, 2015  11:34pm

Connecticut is too costly for the average middle class family. That is why people are leaving the state. I hope the leaders in the capitol start thinking about the middle class, something they have forgotten about

posted by: littlemike | January 10, 2015  1:03am

“....the privilege of living in a beautiful state that takes care of its neediest and offers abundant cultural opportunities.” OH PLEASE! Are you even slightly serious? Sorry to hear that you don’t get to travel around the country much! Your “cultural opportunities” are easily matched or exceeded in many other states and localities; your CT Napoleon Complex is showing! I used to live in the shadow of one major university (Yale); now I bask in the glow of three (and they’re all sports powerhouses to boot), with plenty of theatre, ballet, etc. and lots of dining adventures. The arts thrive around here, and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a major league hospital/medical center. Oh, and this state takes care of our constitutional rights and liberty in a fashion most unlike Connecticut (which ironically still calls itself the “Constitution State”—well, maybe a couple of centuries ago). Yes, Connecticut is a very beautiful state—because it looks a lot like North Carolina, only smaller! I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be a Carolinian by choice. I’m glad for you that you feel “privileged”; please stay there—it is the mentality you’re displaying that has made CT into a state that I am proud to be escaped from.

posted by: shinningstars122 | January 10, 2015  10:45am

shinningstars122

I would of preferred reading some facts on folks who are under 30 who are currently living and working in our state these days.

As for me I left CT when I was a year out of high school and left for 19 years. I moved to Boston and then lived out in the inter mountain west for many years.

Most young people will always leave there home state..especially if they want to broaden their experiences.

I came back to our state because I had a new job and the quality of life is good.

Yes it may be harder these days to make it in CT but honestly that Yankee ingenuity is what makes us stronger, and our state better.

We are clearly at an impasse between generations and ethic heritage as the future of CT will shift over the next decade.

Many Latinio from the Americas as well as people from Southeast Asia are now making CT their home and these folks work hard and have strong families.

This commonality with the past is what always makes CT a great place to raise a family.

Plus our state has always been a leader in the social direction of our country and it is clear these days that the compass is amiss.

Plus the reality is taxes will go up in the south over the next decade as the populations have increased so will the demand for services.

Finally I will take daily my commute over Atlanta any day of the week.

posted by: RBH | January 10, 2015  11:11am

Ct. higher education is a tremendous example of overlapping and duplication. I’m sorry if this goes against the current grain of free junior college. Lets face it, Ct has 1) The University at Storrs plus branches,granted they are of the two year “Juco” variety,  in (2) New London, (3)Torrington, (4)Waterbury, and (5) Stamford. We also have (6) Southern,(7)Central, (8)Eastern,and (9) Western Ct now universities.Add to this the numerous junior colleges located around the state which continually change their names,and we have quite an example of overlapping and duplication. I attended the Univ.at Storrs for a graduate degree so I also have utilized the system. In my opinion this is quite an educational bureaucracy. They are all staffed by state employees and the state has to maintain the physical plant. As the third (?) smallest state in the union I find this totally wasteful.

posted by: littlemike | January 10, 2015  11:50am

“....the privilege of living in a beautiful state that takes care of its neediest and offers abundant cultural opportunities.” OH PLEASE! Are you even slightly serious? Sorry to hear that you don’t get to travel around the country much! Your “cultural opportunities” are easily matched or exceeded in many other states and localities; your CT Napoleon Complex is showing! I used to live in the shadow of one major university (Yale); now I bask in the glow of three (and they’re all sports powerhouses to boot), with plenty of theatre, ballet, etc. and lots of dining adventures. The arts thrive around here, and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a major league hospital/medical center. Oh, and this state takes care of our constitutional rights and liberty in a fashion most unlike Connecticut (which ironically still calls itself the “Constitution State”—well,
maybe a couple of centuries ago). Yes, Connecticut is a very beautiful state—because it looks a lot like North Carolina, only smaller! I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be a Carolinian by choice. I’m glad for you that you feel “privileged”; please stay there—it is the mentality you’re displaying that has made CT into a state that I am proud to be escaped from.

posted by: bob8/57 | January 10, 2015  1:30pm

bob8/57

Sorry but… your data is corrupt, or should I say, Kenneth R. Gosselin deliberately manipulated the data to show a loss. The United States Census Bureau shows an increase in Connecticut’s population of 0.63% between the last census in 2010 and the estimated data for 2014. Not great, or even good, but not a loss and only good for 43rd place. Comparisons of estimated data to estimated data should be avoided unless you have an ax to grind or real estate to sell.

posted by: Politijoe | January 12, 2015  11:34am

Politijoe

One of the best methods to measure the economic well being of a state is to comparative GSP and per capita data. Some of the states without income taxes compensate for the missing revenue through sales and corporate taxes.
Other states simply spend less on services to keep a balanced budget. Wyoming actually had the third-highest tax revenue per capita in the nation in large part because Wyoming, like Texas and other oil and gas states, collects severance taxes, or taxes on production of oil and other hydrocarbons.
They are able to raise huge sums of money through these taxes on their large natural resources industries, and do not need to collect as much tax revenue from incomes or sales. Therefore, it’s apples and oranges to compare these states to non-oil states like Connecticut. It also worth mentioning that states such as Texas, Florida, Wyoming, and Tennessee have all been traditionally frugal and Florida and Texas are among the bottom states for revenue per capita.
Because of their below-average revenue, spending in Texas is just $4,905 per resident, near the bottom of all states. In Florida the revenue per capita is $4,400, the lowest of all fifty states, the national average is $6,400 per capita. Generally speaking lower revenues means fewer services.
For instance Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation. The state’s public schools and mental health are dismal compared to other states.
More than a quarter of Florida’s total revenue comes from state sales taxes. Which is higher than all but five other states. Nearly 20% of Florida residents live in poverty — not only one of the steepest poverty levels, but nearly the highest in the country. One in five residents don’t have health insurance and Florida can boast one of the lowest rates of educational spending in the country. Florida brought in just $3,900 in revenue per resident, the third lowest of all states.
Since revenue is lower in these states the evidence indicates so is spending on services like transportation, education, healthcare, children, elderly and services for special needs.
There are five states with the highest per capita GSP, which include: Alaska, Delaware, Wyoming, Connecticut, and New York. Connecticut has 3% GSP. This also reflects about 10.7% of residents living at or below the poverty line-one of the lower rates in the nation. Fred Carstensen’s analysis has indicated the last three years Connecticut’s economy grew at a stonger rate (+4.07%) than every state in the Northeast region except Massachusetts (+4.21%).
Connecticut’s real GDP expanded 4.07%. In contrast, New York grew 3.6%, while New Jersey expanded just 2.74%. The state’s private sector economy registered real economic growth greater than the national average over that period.