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People are leaving California at record rates

The Thiesen’s packed everything into PODS and moved to Missouri. Courtesy: Barbara Thiesen
The Thiesen’s packed everything into PODS and moved to Missouri. Courtesy: Barbara Thiesen
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Many people are now choosing to pack up and leave California.

Increasingly more people are saying high taxes, the high cost of living, and even politics are making them choose to leave the Golden State.

A report released over the summer showed the state’s population growth hit a record low.

Over the past five years, California has ranked in the top ten states people are moving from.

“You know, it’s no secret what’s been going on in California,” said Tim Theisen, who recently made the move from the Central Valley to Missouri with his wife Barbara.

Tim and Barbara officially sold their home in Reedley on December 8th of 2020.

Just after Christmas the couple purchased a new home 17-hundred miles away in Crane, Missouri.

“Since we’ve been here," said Barbara, "We have met a lot of people who have relocated and a lot of them from California.”

Not surprising considering a report from North American Moving Services shows three of the top five cities people are leaving across the U.S. are located in California.

"We knew it was bad in California but when you start comparing other states," said Barbara, "It was just made obvious that moving would be in our best interest financially.”

The couple did its research and took a road trip to 15 states last summer including Arkansas, Texas, Utah and Colorado.

"And as we crossed the line he would say, 'ok do your homework for the day,'" said Barbara, "And I would go online and I would say you know, what are property taxes, what are state income tax rates, what are personal property taxes, DMV fees, all of those things and we started making a list.”

“There is no comparison to where I am, to where I came from,” said Dewayne Bass, who moved from Visalia to Tennessee in 2018.

Dewayne Bass retired from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department in 2016 after serious health issues.

Thinking ahead, Bass bought a 140-acre property in Tennessee in 2015 for $94,000.

“I knew that my retirement would last further in Tennessee," said Bass, "Basically because of taxes and cost of living."

Then in 2018, two months before making the move, he bought a 4,100 square-foot log home on four acres, with four to 500 feet of riverfront, for $395,000.

“The house I owned in California was 2,420 square feet on just a regular lot, that cost me $315,000," said Bass, "My property taxes here are $1,500 a year, which are half of what they were in California.”

“Our property taxes here on seven acres is about a third of what it was on three acres in California,” said Barbara.

“The cost of ownership is less because of property taxes and everything else,” said Tim.

“Electricity, I mean, everything else is cheaper,” said Barbara.

Power, property tax, income tax, gas, and even car registrations, all a fraction of what it would cost in California.

“As you retire you start thinking about those things," said Barbara.

“It’s just the cost of living is just so much better," said Bass.

Others agree, Tennessee tops U-haul’s list of states seeing the biggest gain of one-way trucks entering its borders.

Texas, Florida, Ohio and Arizona round out the top five.

This map shows the net increase or decrease of population in California by county.

Yellow means more people moved in and blue means more people left.

While Fresno and Merced counties have actually seen a net increase of over 2,500 people combined, Kings, Tulare, Madera, and Mariposa counties have seen a combined net decrease of more than 1,600 people.

Los Angeles County alone has seen a net decrease of nearly 100,000 people.

“That’s shocking to me, almost 100,000 people,” said Aaron Pankratz, an economics instructor at Fresno City College.

“Why is it so expensive to live in California?,” asked FOX26 reporter Shelby Bracho.

“Really it comes down to supply and demand,” said Professor Pankratz.

Traditionally, the large demand for housing in California outpaces the supply.

Buyers bid up the price for housing and it just drives the prices sky high," said Professor Pankratz, "And right now it costs 1.5 times as much to live in California as it does in the rest of the United States.”

That’s just one factor though, political and business-related reasons are adding to the so-called 'California exodus.'

“First and foremost probably has been the very liberal politics in Sacramento," said Professor Pankratz. "some people love it, enough people are fed up with it that they’re leaving the state."

"And for businesses, you’ve got an extremely costly business environment, we’ve got high regulatory type of costs for businesses, high business taxes, it takes a very long time to get projects approved if they are approved," said Professor Pankratz, "And so businesses are finding it so much cheaper and faster to get projects started in other states, people are finding out it’s so much cheaper to live in other states.”

Online groups like 'Leaving SoCal' or 'Leaving the Bay Area' aim to pull people away from California, which could create less of a demand on rent and home purchases.

“The price of homes may not increase as much as they would have, rent may start to stabilize a little bit," said Professor Pankratz, "But again because of all the changes, even in minimum-wage, which may drive price of things higher, the cost of living overall may not decrease."

So, what does this mean for those who stay?

“Tax rates may even go up higher as the state tries to recover some of those lost tax revenues from the people who left," said Professor Pankratz.

According to Bass and the Theisen's, there are things they’ll miss about the Golden State.

“Going to the ocean is going to be a little bit more of a drive,” joked Tim.

“And the sequoias, we love the mountains, we’re big campers,” said Barbara.

Both bass and the Theisen's said leaving California has been a good move.

"It might be scary at first and you may not know anyone," said Bass, "But take that leap."

”I woke up this morning, I couldn’t believe what we had done,” laughed Tim.

Professor Pankratz said the pandemic hasn’t slowed the trend of people leaving, it’s actually helped speed it up.

After working from home for months, people are realizing they don’t have to live where they work.

They can keep their job, and their salary, with living expenses half the cost of California’s.

There have been talks in Sacramento of creating a “ten year tax.”

It would penalize those who lived in California and left by imposing a tax on them for up to ten years, based on what they earned while living here.

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State lawmakers shelved the bill last year.

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