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New York state lawmakers call for commission to study outmigration

Republican Senator Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara
Dave Lucas
/
WAMC
Republican Senator Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara

Worried about the number of people leaving New York, two state lawmakers are calling for the creation of a commission to spend a year finding out why.  

U.S. Census Bureau figures show New York is one of eight states that saw a drop in population in the period of June 2022 through July 2023.

Republican Senator Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara co-authored a new bill that calls for creation of a 13-member bi-partisan state "Out-Migration Commission." The Capital Region lawmakers say it would look into why people are leaving and recommend policy changes to stop it. Tedisco says as of July 2023, over 631,000 people have left New York since the pandemic.

"If this continues," Tedisco said, "this 'Escape from New York,' whatever you want to call it, we won't be the Empire State anymore, we'll be fast moving towards being called the empty state. And we're not only number one out-migration. Last year during the redistricting, and during the census, we were one of seven states that lost another congressperson."

Commissioners would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. As the bill is written, no current member of the legislature can sit on the commission and 10 of the 13 commission members must reside in each of the state’s 10 economic development council regions.

Tedisco fears New York could lose three congressional seats in the 2030 Census should current trends continue, further eroding the state’s influence at the U.S. Capitol. "We don't need any more excuses, we don't need any more talk, we need an action plan. Now, I think that the Assemblyman and myself, who put forth this plan for an independent, bipartisan commission to study out-migration and bring forth not only excuses or any excuses, but reasons why people are leaving, and some solutions on how we can solve this and mitigate it through legislation. The reason we brought that forth is because nothing's being done. Silence. The status quo continues here. You can't turn your back on this problem and expect it to walk away," said Tedisco.

Citing a recent comptroller's report on the state's population decline, Santabarbara says out-migration numbers among several issues facing families in New York. "We can help identify as many significant factors as we can, that can lead to population decline," Santabarbara said. "And from there our hope is to assess the impact of existing laws, regulations and the unique needs of areas of the state. There'll be public hearings throughout regions of the state, because it may differ from region to region. There are some overall issues. You know, affordability is a big one right now of things that we know of. Crime has been an issue. But there are other issues, that we also expect this commission to examine, areas like agriculture, energy needs [and] opportunities, health care, economic development, the environment, education and mandate and tax relief are a few that I hope to see in there. There may be some others as well, that are missing. But the overall goal is to support policy and promote efforts that can enhance and protect our communities here in New York State, and also to make our state more attractive and more affordable."

Under Tedisco and Santabarbara’s bill, hearings would be held in each of the 10 regions within a year with a final report and recommendations due 90 days after that.

Empire Center for Public Policy Research Director Ken Girardin is not impressed. "This proposal is the sort of silly thing that elected officials pitch when they want praise for talking about a problem without doing the harder work of addressing the problem. The best indicator of a region's economic health is whether people are choosing to live there, and New York's struggle to attract people is a reflection of its sluggish recovery — especially upstate — from the last three recessions. Neither sponsor appears prepared to meaningfully discuss the policies behind New York's competitive disadvantage because it would offend influential groups such as public employee unions and trial lawyers. So we're left with soundbites instead," Girardin said.

A spokesperson for Governor Hochul says she will review the legislation if it passes in both houses of the Legislature.

 

 

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.