By Sen. Jim Tedisco
Do you have a loved one or know someone who has moved out of New York state?
Many people do and the numbers show this is happening all too frequently as children graduate from school and then move elsewhere, or as long-time residents retire and pull up stakes from their communities for another state.
The high cost of living, taxes, and public safety concerns are just some of the reasons people cite for leaving New York state, particularly Upstate. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the exodus from our state.
However, there has not been any real coordinated effort by state government to closely look at why so many people are leaving New York, and to adjust its agenda, as it is hitting Upstate communities especially hard.
As we begin a new year and new legislative session, our top priority should be addressing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic so we can stop the spread of the virus, save lives and safely improve and reopen our economy.
In order to reset New York state by safely restarting our economy, we need to address the elephant in the room that the leaders in our state government have not been talking about: the fact that for the third year in a row, New York leads the nation in out-migration of residents with 126,000 people leaving last year and over one million in the past decade.
New York state followed up its net loss of 1.7 million residents from 2000 to 2009 with a loss of 1.4 million residents this past decade. This loss leads the nation in largest overall population decline, according to Census data.
New York is also facing a skills gap where 42 percent (5.65 million) of New Yorkers have a high school diploma or less and are being left out of the technology and clean energy jobs that the state suggests it has made a push to attract.
Despite what some have said, it’s not just “the weather” why people are leaving New York as 16 percent of those who left the Empire State went to “sunny and balmy” New Jersey, according to the Empire Center.
It’s expected this population loss will result in New York losing possibly two congressional seats in the 2022 redistricting, further reducing the state’s clout on the federal level.
When enough people who can afford to leave New York State are gone, who will be left to pay for the infrastructure, health care, schools and other important issue areas?
That’s why I’m working across the aisle with my colleagues to shine the light on this problem and to find out why the Empire State may be fast becoming the “Empty State” so we can change the agenda to keep them here.
While our state government is controlled by one voice from one party affiliation from one region of the state, I believe that I, and my Senate conference colleagues, have an obligation to use the bully pulpit, speak truth to power and advocate for what we believe is sound and good policy for all New Yorkers.
I began working on this issue last year before COVID-19 hit. I’m hopeful in the New Year as we safely emerge from COVID’s shadow, my Senate colleagues and I will be addressing these issues and put forth policies to turn things around.
These include restarting our local economies, rethinking how New York state operates, and renewing a commitment to New York state’s residents to ensure strong, robust economic growth in our communities. Specifically, we must:
Restart our local economies by:
• Safely reopening our small businesses to help them get back on their feet and offer gainful employment for residents.
• Helping our schools and colleges stay open.
• Investing in our infrastructure to rebuild our state’s competitiveness.
• Expand reliable broadband for all our communities to help grow small businesses.
• Rethink how New York state operates by:
• Ending New York state’s unaffordability problems, which has been made worse by the pandemic.
• Taking on state government’s culture of overspending and restoring fiscal responsibility.
• Reasserting the Legislature’s constitutional authority as an equal branch of government.
Renew our commitment to residents by:
• Fostering the growth of vibrant local communities.
• Developing a robust economy with diverse opportunities.
• Creating safer neighborhoods with common sense public safety measures.
“I love New York” is the state slogan. Unfortunately, in New York state and in our Upstate communities, too many people are saying “I’m leaving New York.” It’s no too late to stop the population loss and turn our economy around.
By Sen. Jim Tedisco