The New York disadvantage--Texas vs. taxes

New York City Serenade                                                             Image by joiseyshowaa via Flickr
Eric Torbenson:

New York, I love you — but I can’t make the math work.

Like lots of media professionals (and fashion mavens, artists, musicians, et al.), I’ve penciled out the numbers for what it would mean to take a job in New York City. There’s barely enough room on the back of the envelope for subtracting the double-dose income tax hit from the city and state, and that’s before even adjusting for cost of living.

That’s one of the reasons I’m in Dallas. You know, Texas, the state that parlayed this year’s census data into four new House seats — pinching the two lost by the Empire State — because people actually want to live here.

Lots of Texas professionals love New York this way: fly in for $200 round trip, suck down the city’s beefy marrow of culture for a weekend and jet back to live cheap and pay no income tax. It’s all the pleasure and we keep our treasure.

Folks are voting with their pocketbooks; between 2000 and 2008, $846 million of New York’s personal income saddled up and jingle-jangled down to the Lone Star State.

Nobody’s saying New York’s lost appeal from a career standpoint — it’s still the epicenter of finance, media, law and all that. It’s the paycheck crunch that can turn an offer of a lifetime into No Sale.

The figures work this way on a pitch to come live in the Big Apple: You can get a 17% raise, but you’ll still take home less pay compared to that Texas job. But I hear the rent is cheap, right?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid it out after the census beat-down. “Unless we make this an attractive state to do business in and to live in, people are going to continue to move out,” he said. “We have to reverse that trend.”

It’s no sweat for 10-figure-net-worth Bloomberg to say his city and state overtax. It’s worth perspiring when professionals who earn into six figures give New York City the finger to live large in Dallas, Atlanta or Phoenix.

And forget the idea that a place like Dallas is all belt buckles, mechanical bulls and failed savings and loans. My house — 2,200 square feet for under $280,000 with schools that are among the state’s highest-rated — is 3.6 miles from a Barneys New York, Versace and plenty of other luxury shops. We’ve got our share of restaurants sporting $50 veal entrees. We’ve got $354 million worth of brand-spanking-new arts venues, a killer sculpture center and a football stadium big enough to create its own weather. Plus we’ve got the world’s third-busiest airport with nonstops to 140 cities.

When the Internet economy allows an increasing number of people to live anywhere, low costs win. Texans spend 8.4% of income on state and local taxes compared with 11.7% for New Yorkers. Dollars that would rent a fifth-floor walk-up in New York City instead can buy a small ranch and maybe even acreage in Texas’ suburbs, where prairie begs to be paved for another Applebee’s.

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I made a similar decision several years ago and never regretted it. When I think about the choice between tiny apartments are long commutes in New York the decision becomes even easier. As long as Democrats control New York and keep making the same mistakes that have made the state less desirable, it will keep on shrinking and Texas will keep on growing.
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