The state of California now prohibits state employee travel to 22 states. After adding Ohio to the list in September last year, Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced four more on July 1st: Indiana, Louisiana, Utah, and Arizona. Under this travel ban, part of 2016’s Assembly Bill 1887, state government officials are forbidden from going to these states on official business or using state funds, barring any special exceptions.
Bonta justifies his new additions on the grounds that they discriminate against transgender people – Louisiana’s state government has, for example, passed legislation preventing biological males from competing in girls’ sports in schools. On announcing the additional bans in June, Bonta decried what he claimed was “a coordinated, ongoing attack on transgender rights happening right now all across the country.”
Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita responded to the news on Twitter, stating “While we will miss the liberal government employees from California visiting the Hoosier state this summer, we choose protections for our K-12 girls over them any day.”
Light-footed Californians, however, appear to have no qualms in moving to states black-listed by Bonta – indeed, they prefer them. IRS migration data for the period 2019-2020 paints a stark picture. 70% of the state’s total net population loss, 179,000, left for one of the 22 states ostracized by California. They took over $11 billion in annual income with them, $2.9 billion of which is headed to this year’s four additions. These are figures for only one year of migration and follow a longstanding outflow of Californians that shows no signs of stopping.
Many of them fled their state’s hostile tax environment for greener pastures such as Florida, Texas, and Tennessee, all of which have no personal income tax. California, meanwhile, has the highest top marginal tax rate in the country and has plans to increase it. The mass exodus from California signals that hostile tax policy and declining standards of government will result in people voting with their feet. IRS data shows that 51,956 migrated to the four new states alone.
Californians are moving home to states that, while out of favor with their attorney general, provide more hospitable tax landscapes. New addition Arizona’s four income tax brackets will this year be collapsed into two, pending a shift to a flat rate of tax at 2.5%. IRS data shows that the state took in 37,772 Californians with over $2 billion in annual income in 2019-20 – money that will go further at home and at work. Indiana, which received 1,985 Californians in the same period, is this year lowering the individual income tax rate and scrapping its utility receipts tax.
While lawmakers in the Golden State continue to add political enemies to their blacklist on moral grounds, they seem to have difficulty following it themselves. Governor Newsom was recently spotted holidaying in Montana, a so-called “mean state”, stirring up controversy for the Democratic governor. Newsom pushed back against accusations of hypocrisy on the grounds that the visit was not state-sponsored, but declined to comment on whether state funds were used for security.
California’s political class may lay claim to the moral high ground as they wage a war with Republican states across the country, but the data lays the facts bare – Californians themselves are flocking to those states in droves. The decision of families to migrate, taking their income with them, should set alarm bells ringing for California state officials who might consider whether their priorities are shared by their residents.