The Daytona Beach News-Journal
“Empire falls: Florida surpasses New York”
December 27, 2014We’re No. 3! We’re No. 3!
It may not be the most inspiring claim, but news this week that Florida finally surpassed New York to become the nation’s third most-populous state, behind only California and Texas, is significant for several reasons beyond symbolic bragging rights.The Sunshine State has been creeping up on the Empire State for several years. Back in 1990, New York had 18 million people compared to Florida’s 13 million. That gap closed to just 100,000 last year. After adding an average of 803 new residents (compared to New York’s 104) every month during the 12-month period that ended July 1, Florida grew by 293,000 and officially reached 19.9 million people, eclipsing the Northern giant’s 19.7 million. California is still No. 1 with 38.8 million residents, while fast-growing Texas remains a distant second with 27 million.Ironically, ex-New Yorkers constitute 1 in 10 new Florida residents (migrants from other countries made up about a quarter of this state’s new residents). About 55,000 New Yorkers relocated to Florida in 2013, according to the most recent American Community Survey.Florida’s move up the population ladder has tangible benefits. If its position holds for the 2020 census, it stands to gain at least one more congressional seat. That means more political influence in the U.S. House as well as in presidential elections, as it will receive a concurrent boost in electoral votes.In addition, Florida could realize an increase in federal highway spending, which is paid with fuel taxes that are distributed to states according to a formula based largely on population.Most importantly, the increase in population is a sign of a healthier state economy. Although it was hit hard by the collapse of the real estate market in 2007-08 and continues to crawl out from under a mountain of property foreclosures, Florida’s economy has recovered at a faster pace than the national economy. Its growth in private-sector employment is the third-highest in the nation.Clearly, Florida is blessed with a warm climate that is a magnet for those seeking to escape long, dreary winters. It will always have that advantage over the North. Credit Mother Nature for that.But its post-recession growth also owes a lot to its economic climate as well, which is man-made. As the James Madison Institute, a free-market think tank in Tallahassee, points out, Florida’s state budget is half the size of New York State’s. Florida also has no income tax, and its regulatory environment makes it easier to start and run a business than in many Northeastern states. Gov. Rick Scott produced TV ads that appeared on national cable television networks encouraging people to move to Florida, and he also wrote open letters to business owners in New York State touting the economic benefits of Florida.Florida may never catch California or Texas in population (you think traffic here is bad now!), but it should maintain the formula for success and put New York far in its rear-view mirror.