NY Lawmakers Seek Study Into Population Decline Amid Census Worries | WAMC

NY Lawmakers Seek Study Into Population Decline Amid Census Worries

Jan 31, 2020

Two Capital Region state lawmakers are beginning a bipartisan effort to examine New York’s population loss. Meanwhile, a push is on to ensure the upcoming federal census leaves no one behind.

According to U.S. Census data, New York’s population dropped by more than 76,000 – or .4 percent – from 2018 to 2019.

New York was the fourth most populous state in 2019, behind California, Texas and Florida.

While the current state population is 19,453,561 – up more than 75,000 residents than in 2010 – those other states have grown in the millions.

Now, Republican State Senator Jim Tedisco of Glenville is teaming up with Democratic State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam on a new effort to examine the ins and outs of the state’s population loss.

“Soon we won’t be called the Empire State, we’ll be called the Empty State,” said Tedisco.

Tedisco said as part of the effort he would like to hold discussions in each region of the state to speak with small businesses, manufacturers, education, health care, and workforce development officials to gather input on potential strategies to reverse the population trend.

Republicans, in particular, have linked the state’s population decline to New York’s high property taxes and Democratic leadership.

But Santabarbara, a Democrat, says the outmigration is not a partisan issue and points to what he says is most important.

“We face the possibility of losing representation in Washington D.C. That’s the big issue for New York state,” said Santabarbara

New York could lose up to two seats in the next round of Congressional redistricting and influence in attracting aid from Washington D.C. With 435 seats to be reapportioned nationally, Northeast states have been ceding population and Congressional clout to the sunbelt and Southwest.

With potential federal dollars on the line, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his state budget address that he would add $10 million to New York’s census effort, bringing total funding to $70 million.

“That census, we get about $880 billion federal aid depending on our census and our count,” said Cuomo.

But with New York state facing an estimated $6 billion budget gap, some  lawmakers say the governor should do more to address population decline, to ensure lower-and-middle income residents are not stuck holding the bag as educated and higher-income millennials and retirees are leaving. 

Some local mayors are urging constituents to do their part to ensure an accurate count. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat, made the 2020 Census a significant part of her annual State of the City address on Wednesday. She likened the census to participating in a campaign.

“But instead of getting signatures, you are telling people that they count and you are really laying the roadwork, you are laying the foundation for what this city will be able to accomplish for the next 10 years."

Representative Paul Tonko said the census count not only determines what federal programs communities are eligible for, but also impacts communities’ ability to compete for funds. The Democrat of New York’s 20th District says he will continue to hold community forums on the importance of participating in the census.

“I have told families it’s about dollars for the school that your child attends. Every student skipped over, I am told, is about a $1,500 loss for your school system,” said Tonko. 

It’s not education spending: the census also determines transportation, infrastructure and many other areas of federal spending.

The census count is designed to count all residents, regardless of citizenship status, though that aspect is still being fought in the courts. Tonko said he wants people to know that census information is confidential and that no one can be harmed for participating, regardless of citizenship status.

Census Day is April 1st.