Samuel Stebbins,  24/7 Wall St. for Center Square

Public employee pension systems are some of the largest financial liabilities on state government balance sheets. The 50 states have over $4.5 trillion in cumulative pension liabilities combined, roughly double the amount all 50 states spent in fiscal 2020. For years, state pension systems were woefully underfunded in much of the country, but according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, this trend may be reversing.

Driven by higher investment from both employees and employers, state pension systems have largely stabilized as of 2020. Since 2007, states across the country have more than doubled annual pension contributions, often cutting funding for other programs to do so.

Still, some states are better positioned to pay public sector employees in retirement than others. In Montana, pension liabilities totaled an estimated $17.5 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, the state’s pension assets totaled $11.8 billion. Considering both assets and liabilities, Montana’s pension funding ratio is 67.3%, the 20th lowest in the country.

According to 2021 estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Montana state government employs some 27,800 people, or 5.6% of the total private and public sector workforce in the state.

It is important to note that 2020 is the most recent year for which comprehensive state level data is available and that the recent market downturn has all but erased much of the financial gains states have made in recent years. Still, while markets are always susceptible to turmoil, improved policies have gone a long way to improving pension funding in much of the country.

All state pension data in this story was compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts using comprehensive annual financial reports from each state.

By Brett Rowland, The Center Square

The Federal Trade Commission proposed a ban on noncompete clauses which the FTC said were often exploitative and suppressed wages and competition.

“The freedom to change jobs is core to economic liberty and to a competitive, thriving economy,” Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. “Noncompetes block workers from freely switching jobs, depriving them of higher wages and better working conditions, and depriving businesses of a talent pool that they need to build and expand.”

The federal agency said ending the practice of noncompete clauses could increase wages by almost $300 billion a year and expand career opportunities for about 30 million Americans. The FTC is seeking public comment on the proposed rule. The rule was based on a preliminary finding that such clauses constitute an unfair method of competition.

“Research shows that employers’ use of noncompetes to restrict workers’ mobility significantly suppresses workers’ wages – even for those not subject to noncompetes, or subject to noncompetes that are unenforceable under state law,” said Elizabeth Wilkins, director of the Office of Policy Planning. “The proposed rule would ensure that employers can’t exploit their outsized bargaining power to limit workers’ opportunities and stifle competition.”

The FTC’s proposed rule would make it illegal for an employer to:

* enter into or attempt to enter into a noncompete with a worker;

* maintain a noncompete with a worker; or

* represent to a worker, under certain circumstances, that the worker is subject to a noncompete.

The proposed rule would apply to independent contractors and those who work for an employer, paid or unpaid. It also would require employers to rescind existing noncompetes and inform workers that they are no longer in effect.

Montana saw another year of record business registrations in 2022.

According to the Montana Secretary of State’s Office, roughly 53,000 new businesses were registered after registration fees were cut in half and other fees were eliminated entirely.

The Montana Secretary of State’s Office released the following information:

Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen announced another record number of new businesses were registered in Montana in 2022. Secretary Jacobsen made the announcement during the Montana Chamber of Commerce Business Days at the Capitol at the beginning of the month.

“The pandemic has changed Montana: more people, different people, more expensive housing. In economics jargon, demand for Montana increased,” proclaims the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, (BBER), in explaining the issues that will be discussed at the 2023 Montana Economic Seminar in Billings on January 31.  Director of the BBER, located at the University of Montana, Dr. Patrick Barkey, says that the forces driving this change are likely to persist.  “As such, Montanans must grapple with our response — particularly, how much to increase supply to meet demand.”

The way Montanans act to increase supply affects how increased demand manifests itself in Montana. Neither more people nor higher prices are strictly good or bad. Each option comes with different tradeoffs.

The half-day seminar will be held in eight other Montana cities. In Billings it will be held at the Northern Hotel, 8 am to 1 pm. Registration is required at the BBER website.

Bryce Ward, founder of ABMJ Consulting, a firm that provides economic analysis, strategic advice, conflict resolution, etc., will be a speaker at the event. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and BAs in economics and history from the University of Oregon. He has expertise in urban and regional economics, labor economics, health economics, public finance, social economics, real estate economics, environmental and natural resource economics, and statistics/econometrics.

A report was quietly released from the Department of Energy (DOE) in the last days of 2022 with no comment from the White House, about the economic impacts of cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline. If the pipeline had been allowed to go forward it would have been completed this year.

A report from Fox News, recognized Sen. Steve Daines for having forced the release of the report that was supposed to have been made public over a year ago, which analyzed what would have been the positive impacts of the pipeline if President Biden hadn’t revoked its federal permits in the first days of becoming president.

The DOJ report says the Keystone XL project would have created between 16,149 and 59,000 jobs and would have had a positive economic impact of between $3.4 billion and $9.6 billion. A previous report from the federal government published in 2014 determined 3,900 direct jobs and 21,050 total jobs would be created during construction which was expected to take two years.

“The Biden administration finally owned up to what we have known all along — killing the Keystone XL Pipeline cost good-paying jobs, hurt Montana’s economy and was the first step in the Biden administration’s war on oil and gas production in the United States,” Sen. Daines. R-Mont., said. “Unfortunately, the administration continues to pursue energy production anywhere but the United States.” 

“These policies may appeal to the woke left but hurt Montana’s working families,” he continued. “I’ll keep fighting back against Biden’s anti-energy agenda and supporting Montana energy projects and jobs.”

The DOE was forced to issue the report after Daines and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, successfully inserted a bill mandating the report into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Biden signed into law in November 2021. The agency was required to publish the report within 90 days of the bill’s passage but ultimately waited more than a year before releasing it.

In its release last week, the DOE did mention that the project would have had minimal permanent job impacts, but they failed to address the thousands of jobs that would have happened during its construction. Long term permanent jobs would have been about 50.

(Also unaddressed was a projected $80 million-plus of property tax revenue that would have been paid to Montana, of which $65 million would have gone to the counties through which it passed.)

Biden’s decision to cancel the pipeline has received widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers and energy industry representatives who have argued it would have helped keep gas prices down and ensure energy security. 

Keystone XL had been slated to be completed early this year and transport an additional 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S. through an existing pipeline network, according to its operator, TC Energy.

The project labor agreement that TC Energy signed in August 2020 with four labor unions promised the pipeline would create 42,000 American jobs and provide $2 billion in total wages.

TC Energy ultimately gave up on the project in June 2021 as a result of Biden’s decision. Last year, a federal judge tossed a legal challenge from nearly two dozen states asking the court to reinstate the pipeline’s permits.

In July 2021 TC Energy, the Canadian company that owns the Keystone Pipeline System, filed a $15 billion lawsuit against the Biden administration in compensation for damages that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. Government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations. They claim that the US administration violated the North American Free Trade Agreement with its decision to kill the $9-billion project.

Early this month, Governor Greg Gianforte spotlighted his pro-family, pro-business tax relief agenda in a press conference at the State Capitol.

“All of our tax proposals are rooted in a simple philosophy: hardworking Montanans should keep more of what they earn,” Governor Gianforte said. “We’re ready to give Montanans $1 billion in tax relief, and we look forward to working with the legislature to do it. Now, it’s time to get to work and get it done.”

During the press conference, the governor highlighted elements of his Budget for Montana Families, which provides Montanans with $1 billion in property and income tax relief, the largest tax cut in Montana history.

“Hardworking Montanans need tax relief now and without delay,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Our budget is built for them – hardworking Montanans who make our state stronger and enrich our communities. Our budget is for the farmers and ranchers, teachers and law enforcement, small business owners, seniors, and all our hardworking people – those who make Montana the Last Best Place.”

The governor’s budget provides $500 million in property tax relief for Montanans for their primary residence, with a $1,000 property tax rebate in both 2023 and 2024.

“We can make a difference for the retired couple in the Flathead who, because they can’t afford their rising property taxes, are thinking about selling the home they raised their kids in,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Let’s provide them with $2,000 in property tax relief over the next two years.”

Recognizing the overwhelming bulk of property taxes go to local government, the governor has also called for property tax reforms, including greater transparency and accountability in local government spending, an option to pay property taxes monthly, and greater fiscal responsibility from local governments.

To make Montana more competitive and help Montanans keep more of what they earn, the governor’s budget reduces the income tax rate most Montanans pay from 6.5% to 5.9% and substantially increases the state’s earned income tax credit. When the governor took office in 2021, the top income tax rate was 6.9%.

To support hardworking families, the governor’s budget also provides families with a $1,200 child tax credit for children under six years of age, as well as a $5,000 adoption tax credit to make it easier for Montanans to open their homes to children.

“Family is the foundation of our society. We should do everything we can to make families stronger,” the governor continued. “Let’s provide families with a $1,200 child tax credit to help them raise their kids and pay for food, clothes, child care and health care.”

The governor’s budget cuts taxes for Montana’s small business owners, family farmers, and family ranchers by expanding the business equipment tax exemption from $300,000 to $1 million. Taken with similar reforms from 2021, the measure eliminates the business equipment tax burden for more than 5,000 small businesses, farms, and ranches.

“Our proposed tax relief will support small business owners as well as family farmers and ranchers,” the governor said. “They are the backbone of our economy, create jobs and opportunity for Montanans in every corner of the state, and make our families and communities stronger. Let’s provide them with tax relief by further reforming the business equipment tax.”

Under Governor Gianforte’s leadership, more Montanans are working than ever before and Montanans created a record number of new businesses in 2022, which follows a year of record-breaking business creation in the governor’s first year in office.

Big Sky Economic Development has announced that two new members have joined the board of the Economic Development Authority Board of Directors and the Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors. The EDA and EDC boards meet together to set policy and economic development strategy for the community.

Joining the EDA Board of Directors is Kate Vogel with North 40 Ag. The EDA board is a quasi-public, TradePort authority, whose board members are appointed by the Yellowstone County Commissioners. The EDA has 11 appointed board members.

Vogel grew up in eastern Colorado helping with the neighbors’ cattle, this is where her fondness for agriculture was first discovered. She studied dryland, no-till systems at Colorado State University and after completing her Masters, she moved up to Montana. Kate joined her husband Marcus in 2014 at North 40 Ag in as a way to bring seed and education to their community.

“As we developed the mission of North 40 Ag, I kept coming back to the importance of people. We have grown our family here since the start,” said Kate. “Our employees have become part of our family, but so have our customers. My favorite part of what I do is getting to build relationships with our clients and seeing the improvement they can make on their operation in their journey to meet their soil health goals.”

North 40 Ag has provided Vogel with the outlet to continue to assist the regions farmers and ranchers in implementing cover crops, no-till practices, crop rotations and other soil health practices. It is her passion for farmers and ranchers that keeps her pushing North 40 Ag forward.

The newest board member joining the Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors is Tyler Wiltgen, Executive Director, St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation. The EDC is a not-for-profit corporation made up of 140-Member Investor companies. The EDC has 22 board members elected who are elected by the Member Investor companies.

Wiltgen started his role as Executive Director of the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation in July 2021 and serves as a member of the St. Vincent Healthcare Senior Leadership Team. Before joining the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, Tyler served as Vice President of Advancement for Rocky Mountain College. His prior experience includes development positions in the College of Agriculture, Athletics and Gift Planning at the Montana State University Alumni Foundation in Bozeman. Tyler was also the radio voice of Montana State University Bobcat Football and Men’s Basketball. A native of Wilsall, Montana, Tyler graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman, where he received both his undergraduate and master’s degrees. He and his wife, Malaree, live in Billings with their three children.

The City of Billings has named Jeff Roach, A.A.E., as its next director of Aviation and Transit. He will fill the position following the retirement of Kevin Ploehn after 33 years of employment with the City. Ploehn’s last day is Jan. 13.

Roach comes to Billings from Nashville, TN, and is scheduled to begin his new role on Jan. 16, 2023. Roach will plan, direct, and manage the City of Billings MET Transit System, and the Billings Logan International Airport (BIL).

He brings more than 30 years of experience in transportation, aviation, and airport management to Billings.

Most recently, Roach was Assistant Vice President, Executive Director for John C. Tune Airport, the general aviation reliever airport in Nashville, TN.

Roach is no stranger to the cold climate, as he was previously the Airport Manager for Fairbanks International Airport. He has also worked for the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities as Transportation Planning Manager.

Finding someone with management experience in both aviation and transit was no easy task. The City called on ADK Consulting and Executive Search to find top tier candidates for this unique job title.  Roach earned his bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Alaska and went on to receive his master’s degree in Management from Webster University.  He also received a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Air Force Air University. Roach is an Accredited Member (A.A.E.) of the American Association of Airport Executives, and has a commercial, instrument helicopter pilot license. In addition, Mr. Roach served in the Alaska Army National Guard.

Over time, issues and concerns have been brewing regarding what is commonly referred to as “sober living” residences. With some 37 such facilities located in Billings  – more than any other Montana city –  concerns have grown right along with their increasing number. It is hoped, proposed legislation will deal with the problems.

“Sober living” houses offer a structured environment, for people in recovery who need a safe and substance-free place to live.  They are also commonly known as recovery homes or recovery residences. They do not provide treatment, but a safe, stable place in which to live. In Montana, the state government helps to pay the rent at $500 a month for three months, for those who have been released from correctional facilities, which usually comprise the majority of recovery house residents.

Others in need of a safe and stable place to live may also be referred to a recovery facility and in some cases a facility may specialize in offering shelter for specific categories of individuals, such as mothers with children.

The neighborhoods in which the residences are located often encounter problems— if not by the sheer number of people consuming available parking spaces, to the lack of supervision at a facility, or failure to notify supervising law enforcement officers if a parolee is ejected from a house.

SB-94 has been introduced in the state legislature aimed at tightening up the rules on “Sober Living” residences, which have been operating with very little oversight.  Primary sponsor of the bill is Senator Barry Usher, Billings, who is a member of the Criminal Justice Oversight Council and heads the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. Also on the committee and a member of the Council, is Kathy Kelker, Billings, who also co-sponsors of the legislation.

Scott Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, is also a member of the Criminal Justice Oversight Council. As someone who deals with issues of parole violations and recidivism of criminals, Twito believes that without any oversight, a sober living house increases the likelihood that those on probation or parole will reoffend.

The only requirement imposed on a recovery residence, by any entity of government, is to have a business license from the city. There are HUD recommendations that any residence should have only two people to a bedroom but that is in no way monitored.

While Twito understands and appreciates the benefits recovery residences can provide, he has also seen how the poorly-managed facilities can impair any progress an individual might make by putting them into a facility that does not restrict the presence of alcohol and drugs, and with other residents who may be pushing those things.

Billings has experienced an “incredible increase” in the number of sober living homes, points out Twito. The number of houses in Billings has been steadily increasing since 2019.   The next largest number of sober living houses is in Helena, with six.

Twito said that he has heard discussions on the Council and from other state leaders, that places like Missoula and Bozeman don’t have as many residences because they “really pushed against them and did not facilitate their establishment.”

Given the limited requirements on a residence, and a $500 per bed incentive, there is inducement to crowd as many beds into a facility as possible. It has been reported that some owners have put as many as 15 “cots” in a basement.

 The DOC has spent almost $1 million in rent subsidies on the program.

It is also likely that because Billings is a hub for mental health and other treatment programs, that many people in the state who need help, come to Billings.

Twito points out that several owners operate more than one facility. Three owners account for half the residences in Billings.

Among complaints that have been raised about the presence of “sober living” houses is that there is no process of letting the public  know they are being opened in their neighborhoods or what they bring to the neighborhood. The facilities may be housing violent offenders, people on parole for homicide, or convicted rapists.

City planning officials have pointed out that the residents are viewed no differently than any single-family residence. They are not considered boarding houses. Under law the city is not allowed to discriminate, based upon age, disability or handicap, in how they regulate.

Encouraging the implementation of the new law are Richard and Terri Todd, who started one of the first “sober living” homes in Billings, and today oversee four such homes. They, too, are perplexed about how some of the homes function. “What was once an asset to the community is becoming a liability,” said Richard.

The Todds are urging that a “sober living home” be certified with a national organization and to meet their protocols and guidelines.

“Not all sober living homes are really sober living,” said Richard. Many are more like a “work camp.” “There is no structure…without structure residents are likely to go back to drinking and using drugs and have to be removed.”

Both Todds have had their own struggles and have been in prison themselves. It was through their recovery and personal experiences that they recognized what individuals need to successfully reclaim their lives. The Todds say they recognized that “there was a time when it became important that people have a safe place so they can put their recovery first and to help themselves.”

And, they say, recovery “takes someone who can relate to them.”

The Todds started their first “sober living” home in Billings in 2016. Their four residences operate under a non-profit called Ignatius Sober Living. Although they are not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, the Todds’ residences follow the 12 -step emersion program.

The couple quickly learned that they needed help and joined a national organization to become certified. The organization provides direction and training and regular conferences, which they attend, as do the managers in each of the homes.

“If we are not operating within the guidelines, the members have a place to go to report it,” said Terri. Historically, “if you look into ‘sober living’ there has been some horrific things that have happened to members.” To be certified by a national organization protects the members as much as the home owners.

Recovery residences have gained a footing in the country as an effective means to recovery because when properly administered and supervised, they work! Studies have shown that recovering individuals are less likely to relapse when living in a recovery residence.

“Often family and friends want to help,” said Richard, “but they don’t know how.”

A “sober living” residence offers support and structure that a family cannot give, no matter how much they want to help. “In sober living there is a thin line between helping and enabling,” said Richard.

Citing reports of city law enforcement that claim that there is a group of less than a hundred people in Billings who consume $18 million of city resources because of their recidivism, Terri said that through their recovery houses and treatment at places like Rimrock Foundation, she personally has seen seven of the individuals on that list break free and regain their lives.

Over the seven years that the Todds have been operating, they estimate that about 2500 people have passed through their homes – some for only a few days and others as long as three years.

In 2019, a study done by the National Institute of Health examined the net benefit of recovery residences and determined that there was a gain of $29,000 to the community, every six months, for each recovery resident, because “they are not utilizing services at such a rapid pace,” said Terri.

“We have been super blessed. We have had people who have started their own businesses and come back to hire others from their residence,” said Terri. “Our whole goal is no one has to be alone. They can come back here at any time.”

In the “sober living” residences the Todds operate, there are strict protocols by which the residents must abide. “We operate as a large family  — every one contributes to the house.”

The goal is for each individual to be self-supporting in six weeks. “We have to help them through road blocks such as getting IDs, etc.”

 “We work with them on basic life skills…stuff others take for granted. We teach them a work ethic and give them the tools to get themselves out of the position they are in.”

In their “sober living” households, of which there are typically about 12 members, the focus is on creating a family unit. There are requirements to attend a meeting of household members once a week, and to have a meal together once a week. There are curfews and the houses are open for visits from family or probation officers, with whom they communicate immediately should someone be evicted.

Residents must have a job or be engaged in trying to obtain one, an endeavor in which supervisors assist by teaching them how to do it.

Richard points out that these are people who have been “takers” all their lives, and they have to learn how to be part of a community. Besides becoming employed they are encouraged to volunteer in the community.

The Todds have been able to keep conflicts with the neighbors to a minimum by communicating with them and letting them know how to contact them if there is a problem.  They do not allow any sex offenders in their homes because they do not want their neighbors to have to worry about their children.

The proposed legislation basically requires that recovery residences prohibit certain activities, maintain a registry of residents, and be certified by a qualifying organization in order to get vouchers and transitional assistance funding from the Department of Corrections. If passed the legislation would become law on October 1, 2023.

The legislation recognizes that such facilities can provide a healthy and sober living environment that helps those, with substance use disorders, achieve and maintain sobriety.

If passed the new law would require that a recovery residence register with the Department of Public Health and Human Services. They may also seek certification from a certifying organization of which there are several nationally, such as Oxford Houses, National Alliance for Recovery Residences, or Nuway.

The new law requires that a facility provide administrative oversight, quality standards and policies and protocols for its residents.

The recovery residence may not limit a resident’s duration of stay to an arbitrary or fixed amount of time. A resident’s length of stay is to be determined by their needs and progress and willingness to abide by protocols.

Responsibilities in overseeing the recovery residences are also assigned to the Department of Health and Human Services and to the Department of Corrections, including the provision of rent vouchers or transitional recovery funds for rent.

How much impact do tax policies have?

The Tax Foundation has ranked Montana as Number Two among states to gain population due to Interstate Migration. As a percentage of population Montana gained 1.14 percent in population from 2019-2020 in population based upon an analysis of address changes from the IRS.  Idaho was Number 1 with 2. 05 percent. Arizona was Number 3 with 1.10 percent.

In total 28 states gained in population including Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina—while 22 states and the District of Columbia experienced a net loss—led by New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Washington DC was actually the “state” to have had the greatest out migration with a loss of -2.17 percent, followed by New York with -1. 28 percent. North Dakota was 47th with a loss of – 0.72 percent in population, followed by California with a loss of -0.67 percent.

Reports the Tax Foundation: “For many years, policymakers, journalists, and taxpayers have debated the role state tax policy plays in individuals’ and businesses’ location decisions. Annual data about who is moving—and where—provide clues about the factors contributing to these moves.”

The Tax Foundation explained that these data, capture many of the interstate moves made early in the pandemic—between mid-March and mid-July 2020—but do not necessarily capture the bulk of pandemic-related moves, many of which occurred later in 2020 and even into 2021. It is more accurate however, than the more timely reports provided by moving companies. The IRS data are by default more comprehensive and provide important insights into the movement of adjusted gross income (AGI) among states.

When all individuals associated with each tax return are accounted for, including spouses and dependents, only one state, Wisconsin, saw a loss in tax returns attributable to interstate migration but a gain in individuals associated with the returns of those who moved in.

“Many factors influence an individual’s or family’s decision to move from one state to another….Cost-of-living considerations, including tax differentials, may not be the primary reason for an interstate move, but they are often one of several factors people consider when deciding whether—and where—to move.”

With this in mind, one observation from the 2019-2020 IRS migration data is that a strong positive relationship exists between state tax competitiveness and inbound migration. Overall, states with lower taxes and sound tax structures experienced stronger inbound migration than states with higher taxes and more burdensome structures.

Of the 10 states that experienced the largest gains in income taxpayers, five do not levy individual income taxes on wage or salary income at all, and two others had top marginal individual income tax rates that were below the national median at the time. Recently, those states have grown even more competitive. Nine of the top 10 states either forgo individual income taxes on wage and salary income, have a flat income tax, or are moving to a flat income tax.

Additionally, among the 28 states that experienced net inbound migration of income tax filers, only nine had a top marginal individual income tax rate above the national median. Meanwhile, among the 22 states (and the District of Columbia) that experienced net outbound migration of income tax filers, 15 states and D.C. had top marginal rates above the median. In the aggregate, states with a top marginal rate at or below the 2019 median of 5.4 percent gained 225,000 net new residents from the states with rates above the median.

A robust positive relationship also exists between states with below-average state and local tax collections per capita and those experiencing strong inbound migration. Of the 28 states that saw a net gain in income tax filers due to interstate migration, 22 had below-average state and local tax collections per capita in fiscal year 2020, while half of the states that experienced net outbound migration had above-average collections per capita.

Furthermore, a strong positive relationship exists between states with well-structured tax codes and those that experience net inbound migration. Among the 25 best ranking states on the 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index, which had a snapshot date of July 1, 2019, 20 states experienced net inbound migration between 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, among the 25 worst ranking states on the Index, 17 experienced a net loss of taxpayers to interstate migration.

The Tax Foundation advises, “The reason policymakers should care about their state’s interstate migration patterns is the effect of interstate migration on tax revenue, economic output, and economic growth over time. Between 2019 and 2020, most states that experienced a net loss in income tax filers attributable to interstate migration also experienced a net loss in income associated with interstate migration, while most states that gained taxpayers also experienced corresponding gains in AGI.

Hawaii was the only state to lose residents on net yet experience a net gain in AGI, with new residents bringing in an average of $75,000 in AGI per return while departing residents had an average of $64,000 per return. Meanwhile, only three states—Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri—saw a net gain in income tax filers but a net loss in AGI, with new residents earning less on average than the people who moved out.

Some of this is due to cost-of-living adjustments that tend to occur when individuals leave employment in one state for employment in another. For example, even if their job duties are substantially similar, a registered nurse employed in a high-cost-of-living state is likely to have a higher salary than one employed in a lower-cost-of-living state due to cost-of-living considerations that affect market rate earnings in different parts of the country.

There is evidence, however, that in states like Hawaii, the loss of relatively lower-income residents is somewhat attributable to high taxes and high costs of living causing lower- and middle-income residents to seek more affordable destinations elsewhere. Notably, four of the top five states Hawaii residents moved to—Washington, Texas, Nevada, and Florida—forgo individual income taxes on wage income.

Likewise, some of the gain of relatively lower-income residents in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri is likely due to the relatively low cost of living in those states compared to other locations. Crucially for economic growth, however, a low tax environment also encourages investment and entrepreneurial decision-making and attracts highly mobile higher earners as well.