Soon after early settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, they chose the beehive as the emblem of Utah, symbolizing the cooperative work required to make the desert bloom. By embodying the beehive emblem, Utah has been able to create a flourishing economy that leads the nation in prosperity and growth. As a result, Utah secured the top ranking for economic outlook in the “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index,” for the 14th year in a row.
Utah’s preparation paved the way for a year like 2020. The state implemented major free market policies in recent years, which have strengthened Utah’s economy. From creating a flat personal income tax with a rate of less than 5%, to providing forward-looking pension reform to enhance the economic security of workers and taxpayers, Utah’s policy reforms set the bar high for other states. Additionally, Utah’s truth in taxation for property tax transparency, which reduced the costs of homeownership in the state since its adoption in 1985, has become leading legislation, with the state of Kansas following in Utah’s footsteps.
Reengaging Utah’s skilled workforce has been an important element in Utah’s impressive economic outlook. Recent economic analysis shows that Utah has recouped the overall total number of jobs lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Utah’s unemployment rate is 2.9%, a steep decline compared to the nation’s unemployment at 6.1%.
Additionally, Utah has seen an influx of new residents throughout the pandemic. While many other states shut down, Utah’s approach of protecting both lives and livelihoods made it possible for businesses to stay open. The state’s focused effort of keeping Utahns’ safe and employed made Utah a desirable destination for families and business owners. In fact, the recently published U.S. Census Bureau report revealed that Utah was the fastest-growing state in America since the 2010 census, with a growth rate of 18.4%.
Utah’s enduring success can also be attributed to legislators’ careful planning of the state budget. Lawmakers spend long hours thoroughly reviewing and figuring out how to allocate funds to protect and assist Utahns and their businesses. During the 2021 general session, the Utah Legislature balanced its $23.5 billion budget, implemented tax cuts and funded education and infrastructure, all in the middle of a pandemic.
As other states seek federal government bailouts and assistance, Utah continues to plan responsibly and budget for the future. Utah’s success is not based on federal stimulus — which always comes with costly strings attached — but rather responsible fiscal preparation, limited government and free-market policy conducive to economic growth and opportunity.
Utah is in an envious position, but not without hard work or preparation. Almost 175 years after the beehive was chosen as the state emblem, Utah continues to work together to make the great desert state bloom. The Beehive State is proof that, with responsible planning and fiscal policies, states can provide economic stability and excel even through the most difficult circumstances.
Sen. J. Stuart Adams is president of the Utah Senate. Jonathan Williams is chief economist and executive vice president of policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council.