If you want to see how people really feel about government policies, don’t look at how they vote. Look at where they move.
Last year, 128,000 people relocated to Nevada, according to the Census Bureau. More than 50,000 of those new residents came from California. In contrast, fewer than 22,500 people went West, from Nevada to California.
In a vacuum, this doesn’t make sense. Nevada is an attractive destination in myriad respects, of course, but California has a host of natural advantages. Southern California has some of the best weather in the world and the state has hundreds of miles of ocean coastline. In addition, California is home to some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Apple and Facebook, and the glamour of Hollywood. It is home to some of the most respected universities in the world.
Thanks to the booming tech industry, California has parlayed its advantages into one of the world’s largest economies. Nevada’s economy is doing great, but it can’t compare in size and scope.
This shouldn’t be a fair fight, and yet Nevada is winning. More people are leaving California for Nevada than going from the Silver State to the Golden State.
Thank California’s musclebound public sector for that. Californians pay some of the highest taxes in the country. Environmental regulations have led to gas prices that are approaching $4 a gallon, the highest in the country. Environmental rules and other zoning restrictions have driven up the cost of new construction or prevented it. Predictably, California has some of the highest housing prices in the nation and housing in many places is out of reach for all but the wealthy. The median sale price of a single-family home in Los Angeles is twice as much as in Las Vegas. Prices in San Francisco are five times higher than in Las Vegas.
California’s high taxes aren’t even providing high-quality public services. Its infrastructure is crumbling. As of 2017, more than 675 dams have a “high-hazard potential” according to the Association of Dam Safety Officials. Its roads are substandard with potholes so big they’ve been known to total cars. It can’t even keep the lights on. PG&E, one of the state’s heavily regulated utilities, turned off power to 800,000 customers to reduce the risk of its equipment starting wildfires. Years of forest mismanagement have helped turn the state into a tinderbox.
Given all these problems, it’s quite understandable that many Californians are desperate to leave. Nevada welcomes Golden State transplants with open arms. But perhaps these new arrivals should consider what prompted them to flee California when they next exercise the franchise in their new home.