Gov. John Bel Edwards holds up four fingers to signify another four year term in office, flanked by his wife Donna Edwards, left, supporters and other family members at his election night celebration at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. He had just been called the election winner over challenger Eddie Rispone. ORG XMIT: BAT1911221451423131

If Louisiana were a boat, she’d be leaking. New population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show our state as one of only four with a net population drop of five figures or more between July 2018 and July 2019. The Census Bureau reports Louisiana lost 10,896 people during those 12 months. But it’s even more dire than that. The Bureau also reports more than 26,045 people chose to leave Louisiana and move to other U.S. states during that time. Our net population dropped only by 10,896 because we had approximately 15,000 more births than deaths during those 12 months.

If you think 26,045 locals choosing to leave Louisiana and live in another state in a one-year period is alarming, consider this. The year prior, from July 2017 to July 2018, the Census Bureau reports an additional 27,914 people left Louisiana to live in other states. There’s more. The year before that, the Bureau reports another 27,515 Louisianans left the state to live elsewhere between July 2016 to July 2017. That’s more than 80,000 people over a three-year period giving up on Louisiana and looking for greener pastures elsewhere. What a wake-up call.

When you factor in births outnumbering deaths and international migration to Louisiana to counter locals leaving, our state had a net loss of 33,031 people since 2016. We started losing people in July 2016 after gaining population each year prior since Katrina.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, was inaugurated in January 2016, and within weeks, raised billions in new taxes and gutted incentives for Louisiana businesses. The year 2016 was also when Edwards, with the help of his trial lawyer donors, launched what The Wall Street Journal described as a “shakedown” of the oil industry. Maybe the exodus coinciding with the drastic changes in policies brought on by Edwards was a coincidence.

I doubt it, especially when you look at the other states losing people. The Census reports there were only six states losing 25,000 or more people from July 2018 to July 2019. They were California (-203,424) New York (-180,649) Illinois (-104,986) New Jersey (-48,946) Massachusetts (-30,274) and Louisiana (-26,045). California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are all well-known for their high taxes and anti-business bent. Louisiana joined the club once Edwards raised billions in new taxes and adopted his anti-business and sue-happy ways as governor.

Where did all these Louisianans go? From July 2018 to July 2019, when we lost 26,045 people, our business-friendly and no-income-tax neighbor, Texas, gained 367,215 Americans from other states. That’s like gaining an entire city. Florida gained what amounts to 640 people a day during those 12 months. The Sunshine State was second only to Texas in net migration, with 233,420 new residents. The Southern region of the United States, the fastest-growing part of the country, saw an overall growth of more than one million people during the time period Louisiana lost 26,045 people.

The thing is, people aren’t stupid. They see the nation’s economy on fire and hear of all the good-paying jobs across the country. Since President Donald Trump cut taxes and gutted job-killing regulations, the average personal income for Americans is up more than $5,000. And yet college graduates are having a tough time finding good-paying jobs in our state. Most probably want to stay here, but they must go where the good careers are.

As we enter 2020, things are good in America, with unemployment rates lower than we’ve seen in five decades. And African Americans and Hispanics are also seeing record unemployment numbers. One could argue this is the best economy we’ve ever had.

But with the economy so strong, it’s important now more than ever for Louisiana to compete with her neighboring states by adopting pro-growth policies to entice businesses that will create good-paying jobs. We should reject the stagnant and sluggish anti-growth policies of states like California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Massachusetts. If we don’t, we’ll continue to lose people, and that would be a real shame. We owe it to our young people to offer them a future right here in Louisiana.

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