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HOW HIGH DOES UTAH REALLY RANK?

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Every so often, some group or other rates the nation's states or cities according to "quality of life" or "economic growth" or "business climate" or "environmental quality" or some similar comparison.

Utah and the Salt Lake area often show up on such lists, sometimes near the top, sometimes near the bottom, sometimes wildly fluctuating from one ranking to the next.In many respects, such rankings are meaningless because they only measure certain information. Some facts are left out, undue weight is given to one quality or another, and the results often bear no relationship to the community or state as the residents know it.

So it is wise not to get too excited when Utah or its cities rank high in a positive way on such lists or too discouraged over any sort of negative ranking. Neither outcome may be fully accurate.

A current case in point is the January edition of Money magazine that lists Utah as the sixth-highest taxing state in the nation. But consider the loopholes in that list. First of all, the ranking only counted sales, income and gasoline taxes, conveniently excluding all the rest.

It did not consider property taxes, which are relatively low in Utah and relatively high in many other states, thus making Utah look worse than it is and those other states look better than they are.

The Money ranking did not consider business taxes, again fairly low in Utah, nor did it take into account Utah's lower-than-average cost of living. And the ranking was based on a family income of $61,000 a year, hardly the typical income for Utah families.

Like most such rankings, this list by Money can be dismissed as incomplete and at least partially inaccurate. Keep these points in mind when the next comparison comes along - even if it rates Utah highly.