By Wayne Niederhauser
Utah State Senator, District 9
In a time when the entire nation is experiencing what is at best a tepid economic recovery at the hands of the federal government, it is gratifying to see Utah taking the lead in setting a solid economic foundation for the country. For the fifth year in a row, Utah has been named as the state with the strongest economic outlook.
The ranking is part of the American Legislative Exchange Council‘s, or ALEC, annual “Rich States, Poor States” report, which compares key economic markers, such as tax rates, minimum wage, population growth and job creation. The report is an overview of the policies that contribute to economic well-being, even in these tough times, and which policies states should avoid. As in previous years, the report shows states like Utah that have pro-growth policies are faring better and weathering the recession better than their neighbors.
Utah set a very basic course for itself — create a business-friendly environment that rewards competition and growth. It has done so by keeping in mind a simple equation: do not spend more money than you have. Working with ALEC to review legislation from other states and debate policy initiatives with other legislators, Utah has remained committed to competitive fiscal policy and job creation. This strong outlook is due in part to our flat 5 percent tax rate and employee pension reform legislation.
In 2012 the state was able to pass a balanced budget — something the federal government is unable to do — without raising taxes. Thanks to strict adherence to the policies set, the state has effectively shaken off the recession affecting so many other states. Earlier this year, legislators were able to announce more than $400 million in new spending for education, health care, law enforcement and roads.
The “Rich States, Poor States” report and Utah’s own experience clearly demonstrate that we cannot continue to follow the tax-heavy course set by the federal government and those who support big-government solutions. To ensure the well-being and long-term success of their state, legislators must take the lead in creating economic policies that benefit their state by creating jobs, spurring innovation and encouraging competition.
This work cannot happen in a vacuum. It is imperative for politicians from all 50 states and both sides of the aisle to come together and exchange ideas. The role ALEC plays facilitating the conversation around pro-growth, limited government principles and developing model legislation that advance free market ideals has never been needed more than today.
The principles of free-market enterprise and limited government supported by ALEC are the cornerstone of our nation. At this critical time, we should be focusing public conversation on how these policies can benefit individual states and America. ALEC, without apology, promotes ideas that foster economic freedom and job creation — ideals I proudly agree with. We are at a crossroads and more attention needs to be paid to policies that will generate jobs and lower taxes for our citizens. We should be asking publicly why states like New York and California are stagnating while states like Utah are flourishing.
The economic policies supported by ALEC have kept Utah competitive, creating and keeping jobs in our state and serving as a model for other states to follow as they try to alleviate budget challenges. We have proven that free-market principles can result in a solid economic foundation — for Utah and all the states.
Published on 5/9/12 in the Deseret News.