Most Californians have long been restless and mobile; many of us or our parents came from someplace else. So it’s no surprise when surveys show almost half the folks living here have at least thought about moving somewhere else.
The most popular destination for those who do leave is Texas, where about 35,000 former Californians have gone in each of the last five years.
This has not seriously dented California’s 39.5 million population, as most emigrants were quickly replaced by new arrivals from around the world and nation.
But there is now ample reason to believe the transplanted Californians did not land in the nirvana many expected to find, a place of much lower taxes, cheap real estate and little government regulation.
For many, one of their first Texas experiences came in mid-February 2021, when a blizzard and deep-freeze struck the Lone Star state, dropping outdoor temperatures near zero and indoor levels into the 30s or lower as electricity failed.
Icy temperatures froze water pipes, many laid near the land’s surface because Texas building codes are lax. Several hospitals saw their water polluted, forcing mass patient transfers in extreme weather.
All this barely three years after Hurricane Harvey reduced much of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, to a bunch of rivulets and ponds.
For sure, there is little zoning and building regulation in much of Texas, where the state’s ideal of light government control often lets junk yards, strip joints and body shops exist beside single-family homes.
But it’s something else to see Houston reduced to non-functionality twice in 40 months.
It also turns out “light government control” is a mere legend. It may apply to zoning and guns, which anyone can carry concealed, but no longer to some vital personal choices.
All abortions, even for pregnancies involving rape and incest, are now criminal. If a fetus has fatal disorders, it cannot be aborted. And never mind the mother’s health or survival.
Now comes a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, which concluded that only the wealthiest Texans actually pay lower taxes than Californians.
That is at least in part because of this state’s Proposition 13, which bases property taxes on 1% of the latest sales price for the vast majority of properties. The comparison is based on federal income taxes, plus state and local sales taxes, property tax and information from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census.
These figures debunk the notion of Texas as a low-tax state. It turns out Texans in the lowest 20% of income earners (less than $20,900 per year) pay about 13% of their income in state and local taxes. Californians in the bottom 20% (under $23,200 yearly) pay 10.5% of their income in such taxes.
Similar proportions apply to middle and upper-middle class taxpayers in both states, with Texans paying more than Californians unless they are in the top 1% of earners ($714,000 or more in California).
In Texas, the one-percenters pay 3.1% of their income in state and local taxes, compared with 12.4% in California.
All of which destroys yet another popular concept about Texas, as California imports to that state discover soon after arriving.
Sure, some companies and billionaires get big tax breaks from Texas state and local governments as incentives to move there. But that still leaves newly arrived women subject to the cruelties and potential criminal charges imposed on some of the pregnant by the blanket abortion ban.
It’s much the same in other states that have been popular with California emigres. For example, Idaho, Arizona and Tennessee all have abortion bans similar to the Texas law.
Tweeted Robert Garcia, Long Beach mayor and current Democratic candidate for a California congressional seat, upon learning the Texas tax numbers: “Hey, Texans, come over to California to pay lower taxes. And we have great weather.”
As those numbers appeared, so did billboards in San Francisco and Los Angeles bearing the message “Don’t Move to Texas” and “The Texas Miracle Died in Uvalde,” referring to the mass shooting there.
No one knows who put up those billboards, but they just may be offering sound advice.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected]