“Maryland does not exist in a bubble. We compete with other states, and counties compete with other counties,” Mr. Pettit said.
Neil Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, chalks up the larger jurisdiction’s losses to housing costs. These areas should be more concerned about affordable housing options than taxes, he said.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration has publicly questioned studies concluding that taxpayers are leaving Maryland especially to move to Virginia. O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory pointed out that the IRS data include only taxes filed before late September, which may exclude some of the wealthiest residents who received extensions for complex returns.
The Maryland Department of Budget and Management, in its own study analyzing IRS tax returns, found that the state had the region’s smallest percent change from 2007 to 2010, Ms. Guillory said.
The department’s report showed Maryland’s tax returns decreasing by 5.3 percent, compared with a 7.1 percent decrease in Virginia, she said.
Despite the losses, smaller counties gained people. According to Change Maryland’s study, those along the Eastern Shore benefited from in-state migration. Kent, Talbot, Queen Anne’s and Worcester counties’ numbers were on the upswing.
Mr. Pettitcredits small county government, which is typically not dominated by Democrats as in many of the state’s larger areas, for the growth of smaller counties.
“There’s a give and take on tax and spending issues,” he said. “The focus should be on increasing the tax base, not increasing taxes.”
Mr. Bergsmancited economists and sociologists who conclude that more people move because of life changes such as marriage and jobs than because of taxes. The quality of public services —such as education, health care and environmental quality — play a large factor, too, he said.
“I’m a little bit worried for Virginia that they’re embarking on a program of disinvesting in those things,” he said.
Mr. Bergsman emphasized that the overall number of people who left the state is small in comparison with the total number of tax filers.
“People are moving across the border in both directions. The vast majority are staying put,” he said.