In Florida, a first-in-a-generation net population loss has an unsurprising source.
A few years ago, journalists - citing the chasm between Miami's high cost of living and its low level of income - began predicting that South Florida and its perpetual population-growth machine would soon face the unthinkable: a falling head count. Now it's official. The region - Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties - lost 27,400 residents between 2008 and 2009, while Florida as a whole lost 58,000. That's not exactly a mass exodus for a state of 18 million; but it's the first net outflow in 63 years for a state that considers itself the new California...
... Homeowners, especially in Broward and Miami-Dade, have been falling out of their flip-flops in recent days as they open their preliminary property-tax notices to find increases of 15% or more. That's sizable in a low-income region where the median property-tax bill is already some $3,000, and it's doubly frustrating given that property values have slid by some 25% during Florida's housing bust. Residents have barely digested the recent news that their hurricane-insurance premiums, which can top $5,000 a year for most South Florida homes, will rise 10% a year for the next three years (vital, officials claim, for handling claims from the next big storm). And their public utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL), is lobbying the state for a 30% rate hike (vital, FPL execs insist, for upgrading infrastructure). "It all seems out of control to people here at the time when they can least absorb it," says Dr. Jose Valladares, president of the conservative Fair Property Tax for All in Miami-Dade. (Read about Florida's property-tax revolt.)
Granted, most local governments often have to raise taxes when they're staring at fiscal craters like the $427 million shortfall in Miami-Dade's proposed $7.83 billion budget.
"Have to?" Why, particularly, do they have to raise taxes? Cutting spending isn't an option? I'm sure that absolutely every single dollar of money spent in Miami-Dade county is essential, priority, grade A government spending. $427 million out of a $7.83 billion is about 5.45%. It's not like the citizenry, in this time of rising unemployment, falling home values, and stagnant wages has a lot of extra dollars to throw the way of the government. It's not like these citizens can vote themselves a pay raise or pay out large bonuses to themselves or their workers in a down time.
Florida is now learning the definition of "taxigrent." Being from New Hampshire, and having had my business leave the high tax state to the south just last year, I find myself bemused by this definition in the Urban Dictionary.
Taxigrent (n) Tax + emigrant, or tax + immigrant. Someone purposefully moving from a high-tax location to a low-tax location, e.g. from Boston, Taxachusetts, to Live-Free-And-Die, New Hampshire, where there's no personal income tax or sales tax.