When I became governor six years ago, our nation was in the midst of the largest economic recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment was high and job growth was low. To jump-start our economy, I set the ambitious goal for Utah to become the best performing economy in America.
As always, Utahns stepped up to the challenge.
Today, Utah is the home to the nation’s best-performing economy. Businesses have created over 219,000 new jobs and our unemployment level is one of the lowest in the country. That performance led to our state winning the equivalent of the economic national championship, the top ranking by Forbes as “Best State for Business and Careers” for the fifth time in six years.
Smart, conservative tax policy is a significant part of our economic prosperity. I have worked to minimize our tax burden by keeping tax rates low and improving government efficiency.
Since taking statewide office, we have cut taxes 34 times and Utahns now pay 11 percent less in taxes than the average American. We have the ninth lowest tax burden in the nation, the fifth lowest corporate tax rate, and taxes as a percentage of income have dropped significantly statewide. Today, Utahns have our lowest tax burden in 20 years.
Government’s role should be limited; and when government is necessary, it should deliver services in the most efficient and effective manner possible. When I took office, I challenged every state agency to increase its efficiency by at least 25 percent, and that’s exactly what we have done.
Today, taxpayers are getting more for their money in services ranging from the processing of fingerprints in crime labs, to helping people get back to work, to doing what many would think impossible: we have reduced the average wait time down to four minutes at the DMV.
Of course, success comes with its own set of challenges. Those challenges include ensuring our children and grandchildren are prepared to succeed in the economy of the future — and that they will have great career opportunities right here at home.
Just as I issued the challenge for Utah to become the best economy in America, we have now set a new goal for Utah to become the nation’s leader in education performance. That’s an ambitious goal but one we can achieve — and one we will achieve — by working together.
I have called upon the State Board of Education to review our education standards to ensure parents have a primary role in setting the standards, determining the curriculum and measuring the results of our education system. Ensuring local control of education by fending off federal intrusion is a critical part of the battle, but involving parents is the most important factor in determining student success.
Money isn’t all of the problem, but it is some of the problem. And it’s a problem we have already begun to address. Over the past five years, we have made the greatest investment to education funding in our state’s history — $1.8 billion of new money — all thanks to our strong economy.
Utah has a long and proud history of doing more with less. We can apply that principle to providing teachers with the innovative resources they need while being fiscally prudent with taxpayer resources. We have tremendous teachers who are dedicated to their students and their craft. We need more of them and we need to give them the support they need to get the job done.
It has been my honor to serve the people of our state as a county commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor. Those years of service have given me valuable insight into the concerns, values and priorities of the people of our state. What I have come to understand is that it is the people of Utah who make our state so remarkable. Together, we have proven that principled, conservative leadership and a willingness to work together are what create a high quality of life and true prosperity.
As a lifelong Utahn, it is my honor to serve you. I ask for your continued support whether you vote by mail or go to the polls June 28.
Gary Herbert is the 17th and current governor of Utah