As I was surfing the internet this weekend, I came across a rah rah article for Utah.
We hear these kudos all the time. We are a State that focuses on economic growth and not raising taxes. If you are Utah’s public policy makers, this kind of article reinforces a belief that they are on the right track. Yet if you are to believe naysayers, namely reader comments in our local media, you would get the exact opposite view of our State.
Who is right?
The answer to this as to most political questions is “it depends”.
A recent newspaper article said, The rankings stem from Utah’s long history of fiscal restraint, not from any particular personality on Capitol Hill. “If we are not careful it gets confused with leadership, creates complacency and stands in the way of needed improvements,”. The accolades are “largely misunderstood and can be counterproductive” because they give leaders a false sense of security and accomplishment, which can lead to complacency in the long run.
And no, that was not an excerpt from Speaker Lockhart’s opening day speech. Instead, it came from economist Natalie Gochnour.
What almost all can agree on is that Utah has come a long ways in the last 35 years. When I moved to Utah as a freshman in college, we exported many of our college graduates to jobs out of State. My classmates and I worried about finding a job. Many were underemployed. Our standard of living was comparatively low.
Today, Fortune 500 companies regularly expand to Utah. We are perceived as a business friendly State with a great workforce. We focus on economic growth in our public policy. Our unemployment just dropped to 4.1% among the lowest in the nation.
And from my business involvement, I know these national rankings do matter. At least to the companies who choose Utah. That is how we get them interested in Utah.
One of the coolest designations Utah has recently received is for being one of the top areas for someone from a low income family moving up the income ladder.
Focusing on the economy allows Utah to differentiate itself from “tax and spend” policies of other States. An old says goes “a rising tide lifts all ships”. If you want more money for education or transportation or Medicaid or whatever, then economic growth is a long term approach to generate desired revenues.
More importantly, it allows Utahns to obtain higher paying jobs in increasingly diverse industries. Companies like Adobe, Merit Medical, ATK, IM Flash, US Synthetic, Goldman Sachs, NuSkin, EMC, Fidelity Investments, Energy Solutions, Nelson Labs, doTERRA, Rocky Mountain Power, JP Morgan Chase, Rio Tinto, Boeing, ebay, etc. Or how about the trades? Electricians, Pipefitters, Machinists and Iron Workers just to name a few. Utah is now known as a State where businesses want to locate.
It is refreshing to live in a State that doesn’t rush to tax increases every time government wants more money. Increased taxation almost always impacts Utah’s lower income families the most and it is no surprise that our policies allow low income people a better chance at moving up the income ladder. A long term focus on economic growth with low taxation and reasonable regulations allows Utah to gain an important edge on our competitors for new jobs, other States. And it allows Utah children the ability to stay in Utah and obtain quality jobs.
We can’t get complacent. We can’t coast. We need to be strategic and invest the revenue we do have in the right places. To paraphrase a famous Utahn, “this is the right place”.