The story has been told many times: Upstate New York has oppressive taxes, population stagnation, and job losses. We should not be asking ourselves if, but rather when, we plan to leave New York. Every other state in the country is a utopia of minimal taxes, population explosion, and surplus jobs.
There is, however, another story that can be told:
- In an effort to educate its residents, New York spends the most per pupil per year of any state in the country. This spending translates into double the amount of top performing high schools than would be expected by population alone. (In Rochester, that is actually triple.) Locally, a town such as Brighton can provide a top 500 high school with housing prices that are below the national Zillow Home Value Index. In other words, top-tier education is theoretically available to many.
- The focus on education may explain why Upstate New York comprises 4 of the 20 metro areas with the most patents per million residents from 2007-2011.
- In an effort to provide health care to its residents, Medicaid spending in New York dwarfs that of all other states aside from California.
- In an effort to preserve a coveted long-term asset, namely fresh water, New York State has foregone short-term gains by choosing not to embrace natural gas drilling.
- Close to home, Rochester's second largest private sector employer, Wegmans, has proven for 100 years that a company can invest in its employees, invest in its community, please its customers, make money, and grow.
All of the above is dampened by one key missing link: robust job growth. Where exactly have the jobs gone? Certain local products have run their life cycle, prompting downsizing of their associated companies (e.g. film and Kodak, copiers and Xerox.) But another factor cannot be downplayed - other states.
These other states have been able to limit their investment in education, health care, and the environment, thus maintaining low taxes which are quite attractive to business. Even better, these other states are able to lure (i.e. steal) ideas and talent from states which have opted to invest in education, health care, and the environment. In the absence of these other states, New York would sport its above resume and exhibit better job growth. Which warrants the question: is New York really so bad?