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Commonwealth Poll: PA Residents Fleeing High Taxes, Poor Job Market

A survey released by the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation suggests many Pennsylvanians are fleeing the state in large part due to its high costs of living, including high taxes.

The poll, conducted for the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank by the Bullfinch Group, found more than 40 percent of respondents have either thought about leaving, know someone who has left the state, or considered doing so.

Among the top-cited motivators for those responses include seeking a lower cost of living in another state, as well as a lower tax burden and/or “better jobs and opportunities.”

A quarter of subgroup respondents said “less-intrusive government/more personal freedom” was also a factor.

Cost of living and inflation concerns ranked high on the list of problems people said they were facing both in the U.S. and Pennsylvania in the present day.

During a media call Thursday, Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield said there were “plenty of reasons to be concerned” about the state of Pennsylvania’s economy, and that there are “a lot of people moving out of the state.”

“The most recent census numbers show, last year we lost 40,000 residents due to net migration,” Benefield said. “That follows a decade where we lost 200,000 residents.” The population loss cost the state a congressional seat.

Benefield said Pennsylvania is “losing working-age populations to other states” while gaining high numbers of retirees.

“It’s an attractive state to retire to, not to work in,” he said.

Though the numbers indicated a somewhat gloomy outlook about Pennsylvania’s economy, respondents in the poll were broadly favorable to newly installed Gov. Josh Shapiro, and a plurality of respondents viewed Pennsylvania’s state House favorability, suggesting feelings of confidence in at least some of the state government as the current legislative session nears its halfway point.

Benefield argued that, despite the less-than-encouraging migration numbers, “there’s plenty of reason for optimism.”

“Pennsylvania remains the largest and most significant swing state in the country,” he said. “It’s positioned to be the economic leader for the Northeast. And we have enough resources under our ground to help power the country and even the world.”

In a press release, Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Jennifer Stefano noted the poll results show “voters strongly support policy solutions that have the backing of Gov. Shapiro and enjoy bipartisan support in the legislature.”

“State lawmakers have an opportunity to gather on this common ground to provide economic relief, improve education, and set the commonwealth on a stronger course so all Pennsylvanians can flourish,” she said.

The poll also found that while President Joe Biden may be a native son, he doesn’t enjoy much popularity among state voters.

Asked who they wanted to see on the 2024 ballot, 34 percent said former President Donald Trump while another 26 percent wanted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Given the opportunity to pick multiple candidates, only 24 percent said Biden.

And 58 percent disapprove of the job Biden is doing, while just 40 percent approve.

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