By Rob Roper
Columnist Michael Barone, who created and co-authors the “Almanac of American Politics,” has a great piece out on the Census Bureau’s estimates of state populations and immigration patterns. Vermont gets a mention. It’s not encouraging, especially if our leaders are serious in their declarations about wanting to increase Vermont’s population in the near future.
Just three states lost population between 2010 and 2017. West Virginia led the way with a 2 percent decline, which Barone attributes to Obama’s war on coal. Vermont is just behind with a 1 percent decline, which “can be chalked up to Woodstock-era migrants — Bernie Sanders, Howard Dean. They’ve liberalized the state’s culture and politics, so with the state’s high taxes and stringent environmental bans, no one is following.”
It’s an ironic slap given that the Vermont left loves to portray themselves and our state as the leaders everyone else will follow down this Progressive path. What we’ve really become is the cautionary tale in a public service announcement about failed state policies. “This is your state; this is your state on Vermont-style politics.” Eeek!
The third state to lose population was Illinois, at -0.3 percent due to “high and rising taxes, to pay for hugely underfunded public pensions.” There is a cautionary tale for Vermont here as well, as our unfunded pension liabilities are an under-reported ticking time bomb.
So who did well in attracting new citizens to their states? Or, if we’re serious about bringing in new Vermonters, whom we should be emulating? Texas and Florida led the pack with 13 percent and 12 percent population increases, respectively, attracting 5.3 million people in total to their states. Why? “No state income taxes, light-touch regulation, and resulting private-sector booms,” Barone says. It’s certainly not the aesthetic or lifestyle. I’ve been to Texas. It is oppressively hot and not particularly attractive, unless you really like the color brown. Oh, and snakes.
Barone concludes, “The nexus between high taxation and domestic outflow is plain when you look at percentages.” Are our lawmakers paying attention? The governor is on the right track with “no new taxes and no new fees.” That’s still a far cry from no income taxes and regulatory reform, but it’s a step in the right direction in bending the culture curve. House and Senate leaders, however, seem intent on driving over the cliff Thelma and Louise style, prioritizing a $15 minimum wage and a new payroll tax to pay for a government-run family leave insurance program so attractive on its own merits they have to force people into it.
It is time for Montpelier to give up trying to find new things to do to attract new citizens and start figuring out what it is they are doing that drives people away — and stop.