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N.Y.'s slow growth will mean loss of two seats in House ; Census results reduce delegation's size to 27

The population and power in the United States continues to shift down South and out West, while the troubled, slow-growing State of New York the proud Empire State -- struggles to keep pace and is fast losing its clout.

New York -- the country's third-largest state -- will lose two seats in the House, boasting its smallest delegation in more than 180 years, as a result of the 2010 count of the nation's population.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday released the first glimpse of the 2010 census, which showed a growing nation of 308.7 million people -- 27 million more American residents than a decade ago.

But the news out of New York is what you would expect from a state that has been reeling from high taxes and hemorrhaging private-sector jobs for decades.

New York grew by only 2.1 percent, or more than 401,000 people, during the last decade, raising the state's population to 19.3 million.

Even though New York's population didn't go down, it was one of the slowest-growing states, outpacing only Ohio, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Michigan, which was the only state to see a net loss of people.

"People follow jobs," said Kathryn A. Foster, director of the University at Buffalo Regional Institute, "and job creation has been more robust in other parts of the country."

It's just another step in a half-century pattern of New York losing economic and political influence to other states, said Robert B. Ward, deputy director of the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government at the University at Albany.

"It's a fairly straightforward equation," Ward said. "We have lost out on jobs, thus we have lost out in population, and then we lose seats in Congress."

New York, which now has 29 seats in the House, will have only 27 as of 2013, the lowest number of representatives in Congress since 1823.

Ohio is the only other state losing two seats. Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are each losing one seat.

Meanwhile, Texas was the big winner, picking up four seats for a total of 36. Florida is gaining two seats, giving it the same number as New York; Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington are each gaining one.

But for New York, it's a dramatic drop in political influence since the state had a total of 45 House members at its peak of power in 1940.

It was expected New York would lose one seat, but two came as a bit of a surprise to some on Tuesday.

Now, the Democratic-controlled Assembly and the State Senate that's returning to Republican control after the November elections are tasked with drawing the new districts, a process that happens every decade after completion of the census.

It's likely to be one of the most contentious redistrictings in history, given the levels of partisan polarization and the technological know-how to identify populations more precisely than ever before, said Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University.

Former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, has gained a reputation as a reapportionment expert after playing major roles in the 1992 and 2002 processes, first as an assemblyman and later as a member of Congress.

While Reynolds said he will not be involved in the new reapportionment, he expects that it will play out much like in 2002 -- a loss in Western New York and another in the state's southeastern corner. He said it could turn out that a suburban seat could stretch into New York City if some areas of the five boroughs do not register enough population growth.

Reynolds also said he expects Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and incoming Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, to work out a compromise. In 2002, he pointed out, upstate lost the seats of Reps. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, and Benjamin Gillman, R-Middletown.

"There will be all sorts of machinations," Reynolds said. "But I think the two legislative leaders will do one bill that meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and that the governor will sign."

The nation grew by 9.7 percent since 2000, compared with 13.2 percent during the 1990s.

The bulk of the population increase came in the West and South, where companies have been shifting jobs in response to state financial incentives and the lack of strong labor unions.

The two regions accounted for nearly 85 percent of the nation's growth at the expense of the Northeast and Midwest, which both grew only 3 to 4 percent over 10 years.

Immigrants settling in the South and West also have a lot to do with the robust population numbers in those regions, Foster said.

"The Northeast and the Midwest have been losing ground to the warmer, faster-growing states in the South and West for a long time," Foster said.

California remains the most populous state with 37.2 million, while Wyoming, home to 563,626, is the least populous.

Percentagewise, the fastest-growing state is Nevada, where the populace shot up by 35 percent since 2000. But when it comes to sheer numbers, Texas gained the most, picking up nearly 4.3 million people.

Tuesday's release was the first in a series from the 2010 census. More detailed figures for Buffalo Niagara and other metro areas will be released starting in February, so state governments can begin the redistricting process.

News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy and News wire services contributed to this report.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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Population shifts

Five fastest-growing states

Nevada 35.1 percent

Arizona 24.6 percent

Utah 23.8 percent

Idaho 21.1 percent

Texas 20.6 percent

*

Five slowest-growing states

Michigan –0.6 percent

Rhode Island 0.4 percent

Louisiana 1.4 percent

Ohio 1.6 percent

NewYork 2.1 percent

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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States gaining congressional seats:

Texas 4

Florida 2

Arizona 1

Georgia 1

Nevada 1

South Carolina 1

Utah 1

Washington 1

*

States losing congressional seats:

Ohio –2

NewYork –2

Pennsylvania –1

New Jersey –1

Missouri –1

Michigan –1

Massachusetts –1

Louisiana –1

Iowa –1

Illinois –1

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