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Utah Governor Spencer Cox Says California 'Refugees' Should Stop Moving to Utah

'We would love for people to stay in California instead of coming as refugees to Utah,' said Cox at the White House

Governor Spencer Cox of Utah wants to prevent the emigration of people from negatively impacting his state.

For the last three years, California’s population has significantly declined due, in part, to a mass exodus coinciding with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s population shrunk for the first time in California’s history in 2020.

Utah, in contrast, has seen significant growth in population during the same period – further extending a state that was already experiencing steady growth. Between 2010 and 2020, Utah’s population jumped by more than 18% from  2,763,885  to 3,271,616.

“This last census confirmed that Utah was the fastest-growing state over the past 10 years,” Cox said while speaking at the White House on Feb. 10 for the winder National Governors Association meeting. “Our biggest problems are more growth-related.”

“We would love for people to stay in California instead of coming as refugees to Utah,” said Cox. 

In 2021, Idaho, Utah, Montana and Arizona were the nation’s fastest-growing states

The growth in states like Idaho, Utah, Montana and Arizona offset a decrease in California,” reported Deseret News. “There are political implications for the recent population shifts. While California remains the most populated state in the country with more than 39.2 million residents, it’s losing one congressional seat for the first time in its history. Meanwhile, Colorado, Montana and Oregon are each picking one seat up.”

For Cox, the rapid growth presents serious challenges for the state infrastructure. He cited preexisting challenges to meeting water and housing demands. 

“Because we have grown so quickly, we need a larger supply of housing. That’s where our focus is, “ Spencer said. “We are not working to attract more people. We are doing just fine that way.”

“We will take some of your folks in New Jersey,” quipped Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, who chairs the National Governors Association. Between 2010 and 2020, New Jersey’s population declined by just over 497,000.

According to The Sacramento Bee, “the population decline also partly reflects failures in state policy: California is in a housing affordability crisis.”

“The out-migration may be partly attributable to work-from-home policies instituted during the pandemic,” the outlet also noted. “Those policies fueled in-state migration out of expensive housing markets such as the Bay Area and to more affordable places, including Sacramento.”

Others have noted California’s high taxes compared to other states in the region. 

California has the highest personal income tax rate. They have the top 10 highest corporate income tax rate,” Adam Michel, a senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, told Fox 6 in 2020.

Michel said the taxes discourage developers from building new housing. 

“These things make it harder to add new units. When there’s fewer houses being built, fewer apartments, it means the price has to go up,” he said. 

The majority of people who have left California have taken up residence in Texas and Florida.

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