Some may say 13 is an unlucky number, but not for Utah. This year marks the 13th year in a row that Utah has secured the top ranking for economic outlook in the Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.
The COVID-19 pandemic and following economic repercussions were unexpected, but thankfully, Utah was prepared. Utah planned for today’s realities with economic and infrastructure development while leading the country in upward mobility and volunteerism. Many states that have overspent and overtaxed their citizens for years are now lobbying Congress for a federal bailout. Utah is proof that, with the right policies in place, states can successfully address challenging times and create economic stability during downturns. States taking the lead and solving their own policy challenges is essential.
For more than a decade, Utah lawmakers have put money into reserve funds and built budget contingencies, while simultaneously balancing the budget each year. This preparation made it possible for legislators to avoid substantial reductions to vital, state-provided services. As a result of careful planning, the Legislature was able to utilize reserves on its priorities and increase public education and social services funding while making critical investments to accelerate growth and economic recovery.
The long-term success of states relies on legislators creating an economic policy environment that supports the creation of jobs, spurs innovation and encourages competition. Having safeguards in place to protect and assist Utahns and Utah businesses’ financial well-being is a high priority for state legislators. Utah currently has the second lowest unemployment rate in America, and its gross domestic product almost tripled between 1999 and 2019.
Ranking No. 1 in Rich States, Poor States again places Utah in an enviable position nationally. Utah entered the health crisis with a vibrant economy, record-low unemployment and the title of best state for entrepreneurs. Utah is also the most independent state, consistently ranks as one of the best states for business and has maintained its AAA bond rating.
While the economies of New York, California and Illinois are worsening, creating economic barriers for their citizens, and causing out-migration of businesses and individuals, states like Utah are prospering. Americans are relocating to states like Utah with lower tax and regulatory burdens, less government debt and greater transparency and accountability for government spending. Utah’s pro-taxpayer measures are a great example for the nation and many have been adopted by ALEC members as model policy.
Though 13 is Utah’s lucky number this year, luck isn’t the reason the state’s economic outlook is bright. Utah’s fiscally responsible preparation and desire to stay on the cutting edge of free market policy prepared the state for the pandemic-induced downturn. Utah is taking calculated steps to restart the state’s economic recovery and protect individuals’ health now while strategically planning for an even stronger future.
Sen. J. Stuart Adams is president of the Utah State Senate. Jonathan Williams is the chief economist and executive vice president of policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council, America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.