Why Are We Losing Out To Pennsylvania?

Who would have thought that the greener pastures many Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany county residents seek is a stone’s throw away in Pennsylvania?

According to federal Internal Revenue Service tax filer migration data, the top destination for those who left Chautauqua County from 2011 to 2016 is Pennsylvania. Statewide, Pennsylvania is the sixth-most popular destination for those who move away from New York state.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and County Executive George Borrello shared their thoughts for Pennsylvania’s popularity last weekend with The Post-Journal’s Dennis Phillips. Many of the things that make Chautauqua County a nice place to raise a family can be found in Pennsylvania. Pennsyvlania’s proximity to Chautauqua County makes it easy for someone to get a job in the Jamestown area where wages may be higher and still live in Pennsylvania, where the cost of living is lower than Chautauqua County’s already low cost of living. Small business owners can indeed free themselves of New York’s onerous regulations by locating in Pennsylvania and working in New York.

New York has met its competition. What can it do to lure Pennsylvanians into New York?

The answer isn’t money. As much as the state has tried to throw money at downtowns throughout New York state through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the Regional Economic Development Committee approach, such programs aren’t likely to reverse the county’s outmigration trend with Pennsylvania. Adding a bunch of spiffy new attractions to downtown Jamestown might make Warren-area residents come and visit more often, but won’t make those Warren residents move here.

No single thing is wrong with New York. Our population loss is akin to death by a thousand paper cuts. Some leave because the jobs for which they’re qualified are in Pennsylvania. Some dislike some of the state’s laws and prefer to live where there isn’t as much government interference. Some see a place where it is easier to run a business. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said it’s President Donald Trump’s cap on state and local tax deductions and joked that people are leaving because of the weather.

Whatever the reason, it’s obvious what the state has been doing for the past couple of decades isn’t working for upstate. If New York is serious about getting to the bottom of its Upstate population decline, and if has the will to listen to what people say, then state legislators should create a statewide task force or committee to listen to people’s opinions and form recommendations based on them.

Population loss is a major problem. People who move away aren’t buying things from our stores. They aren’t paying the property taxes that support schools and infrastructure. They aren’t part of the local PTA or volunteering for social service programs that desperately need volunteers. The region could lose even more of its voice in state and federal government when the time comes to redraw the lines for U.S. House of Representatives seats and positions in the state Assembly.

We’ve heard enough jokes and political rancor about the state’s rural population losses. It’s time for the state to get down to brass tacks, figure out what’s making people move away and fix it.