Taxes Are Surprisingly Similar in Texas and California

The LA Times tells us today that conservatives are leaving California for “redder pastures.” As it happens, the piece provides no evidence that this is happening more than usual, or even that conservatives are leaving the state at higher rates than liberals. But it does offer us this:

Republicans and conservative voters were nearly three times as likely as their Democratic or liberal counterparts to seriously have considered moving — 40% compared with 14%, the poll found. Conservatives mentioned taxes and California’s political culture as a reason for leaving more frequently than they cited the state’s soaring housing costs.

Taxes. That makes sense. California has famously high taxes, after all.

Except that it doesn’t. The state that conservative Californians are allegedly flocking to is Texas, and for your average middle-class worker or retiree its taxes are surprisingly similar to the People’s Republic of California. Here’s the comparison from the good folks at ITEP:

If you’re poor, California has lower taxes. If you’re rich, Texas has lower taxes. But if you’re middle class, there’s barely any difference. You’ll pay about 8-10 percent of your income in state and local taxes.

These are averages, of course, and individuals can differ considerably depending on their circumstances. But large migrations depend on averages, and the middle 60 percent of the population averages about the same in both states. That may seem counterintuitive given that California is the #2 state for progressive taxation and Texas is #51, but this is due entirely to the tax rates of the rich and the poor. For the rest of us, there’s just not much difference.

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