Newsom vs. DeSantis is also California vs. Florida. Who’s got the better place to live?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Govs. Gavin Newsom and Florida’s Ron DeSantis love to brag about how their state is the best place to live, work and enjoy life.

Newsom, a second-term Democrat, and DeSantis, a Republican presidential nominee, will debate Thursday for 90 minutes in Alpharetta, Georgia, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Fox News Channel commentator Sean Hannity will moderate.

Expect lots of boasts, along with numbers from both that appear to back up all of their claims.

DeSantis, for example, told “Fox and Friends’’ last week “People are flooding into Florida because we’ve stood for freedom and prosperity. They’re leaving California because they can’t even keep the streets safe.”

Newsom appeared on Hannity’s program earlier this year and offered a series of reasons California is a booming state.

The answer, of course, is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Florida’s got lower taxes. California is more aggressive about protecting the environment. Florida is considered more business-friendly. California is a bit more diverse and, by some measures, residents are more involved with their communities and neighbors.

“Florida’s advantages in cost savings, job market, and lifestyle preferences make it a compelling choice, with the ongoing migration from California signaling a shift in preferences,” said analyst Cassandra Happe, an analyst for WalletHub, a financial services firm that surveys economists and uses a series of metrics to rank states in different ways.

“Ultimately, the decision hinges on what individuals value most in their living experience, be it financial considerations, cultural diversity, or lifestyle amenities.”

California vs. Florida

Here’s a look at the claims the governors are likely to make Thursday:

People are fleeing California for Florida. It’s a frequent DeSantis refrain. Florida’s population is growing and California’s has been shrinking.

The California-to-Florida exodus ramped up significantly last year, with an estimated 50,700 people fleeing the Golden State for Florida between 2021 and 2022, according to recent census data. That’s nearly twice the number of people who moved from California to Florida in 2018, the year Newsom was first elected governor.

Roughly 28,500 people moved from Florida to California last year, according to the census data, a slight increase over pre-pandemic years. But California’s net loss of residents to Florida has more than quadrupled since 2018.

Overall, Florida had the nation’s largest population growth by percentage (up 1.9%) in the 12 months ending in July 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau said. California had the 10th worst decline, 0.3%.

California lost 113,649 people in that year, second only to New York. Florida gained 416,754. Census data do not show how many people went directly from California to Florida or vice versa.

Florida did have the biggest gain in people moving from another state (318,855). California had the largest number leaving for another state.

Newsom’s office has a different take on the state-to-state migration, and cites PolitiFact. It notes a study based on 2021 census data that found 1.16 per 1,000 Floridians moved to California in 2021 and 0.96 Californians moved to Florida that year.

Florida’s population has undisputably boomed. Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting, said, “What really tilted the scale was the COVID-19 period, and how states differed in responses.”.

California had tough restrictions in place while Florida was more lax. “That may have catalyzed some of what we’re seeing in the demographic data,” Snaith said.

“It provided a boost to migration. People asked, ‘Why pay all these heavy taxes to stay in California when you can move to Florida, increase your take-home pay significantly and reduce the cost of living in regard to housing,’” he said.

Newsom’s office cited a Los Angeles Times analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showing that far more Floridians died on a per capita basis during the COVID-19 emergency than California residents.

But another study noted that Florida’s population is older and tends to be less healthy.

California is a pleasant place to live. Newsom and his allies tout the quality of life, and California ranks much higher than Florida in WalletHub’s assessment of community life, which considers how people relate to their neighbors and surroundings.

Using data from 14 different sources and its own research, WalletHub looked at five factors to rank the states in this area: how many people volunteer for projects and services; “ideal weather;” average time devoted each day to leisure; safety, and separation and divorce rates.

“While Florida is enticing with its lower cost of living, beautiful beaches, and business-friendly environment, California counters with cultural diversity, quality education, and job opportunities.

Factors such as safety, weather, and recreational activities also play a role in the decision-making process,” said Happe.

California is the nation’s most diverse state, with Florida ranking fifth, WalletHub found. It uses four metrics to define diversity, with California topping the nation for socioeconomic and cultural diversity.

Who’s got the stronger economy? Newsom has boasted that California has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. DeSantis and his allies point to Florida’s low unemployment and economic growth.

They’re both right.

China and India grew faster than California in 2021. But California outpaced Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Mexico and virtually all other major free market countries, according to data compiled by the International Monetary Fund..

The state’s 2021 growth was one of the United States’ best, topped only by Tennessee and New Hampshire, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Fast forward to this year, though. California’s economy grew 1.2% in the first quarter, while Florida was up 3.5%.

California’s unemployment rate last month was second largest among the states at 4.8%, up from 4.1% a year earlier. Florida last month had the 11th best at 2.8%, up from 2.7% in October 2022. The national rate last month was 3.9%.

Florida’s better for business. The annual Tax Foundation business tax climate index has ranked California poorly for years, and last month it came in 48th of the 50 states.

The center-right research group said the low status was the result of California’s high income, sales and corporate tax rates. Its individual income tax rates ranked 49th highest, the corporate tax burden was 45th and its sales tax rate was 47th.

Newsom’s office counters the ranking by citing Time Magazine’s 2022 list of the nation’s 100 most influential companies. Thirty-four are based in California, far more than any state.

California is the country’s top agricultural state, producing more than one-third of the nation’s vegetables and three-fourths of its fruits and nuts. Its small businesses employ 7.42 million people, more than double runner up Texas with 3.1 million.

Florida’s taxes are low. The tax debate has been one of the fiercest.

California’s top rate of 13.3% is the nation’s highest, though it applies only to incomes of more than $1 million. Florida has no individual income tax.

WalletHub looks at an individual’s taxes another way, by examining the tax burden in each state. Its rating measures the proportion of total personal income someone pays in state and local taxes, including income, property and sales and excise taxes.

Florida still does well, ranking 46th. California is 23rd, largely because of its income tax.

Newsom’s office pointed to a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a progressive research organization, which found Florida to have the third most inequitable tax structure in the country. California had the most equitable in its study, published in October 2018..

But the tax factor is a huge reason Florida keeps growing, WalletHub’s Happe said.

“The absence of a state income tax in Florida provides a clear edge, contributing to its allure for those seeking cost savings,” she said.

Bee staff writer Ryan Lillis contributed to this story