Utah tops national economic report
By Jasen Lee, Deseret News
Published: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 4:00 p.m. MST
SALT LAKE CITY — For the fourth straight year, Utah ranks no. 1 for economic outlook among all 50 states, according to a new report.
The Beehive state topped the economic outlook category and also ranked 14th in economic performance. Both ratings indicate Utah has developed a solid plan for economic growth, said study co-author Jonathan Williams.
“For years, Utah has gotten things right when it comes to tax policy, regulation and labor policy,” Williams said.
He cited Utah’s recent decision to lower income tax rates to a flat 5 percent for business and individuals as an example. Having a favorable tax policy will help the state remain competitive, particularly as it vies with neighboring states in the economic development arena.
Williams also said that the state’s recently enacted employee pension reform legislation will serve as a model to other states around the country as they try to mitigate long-term budget challenges.
The American Legislative Exchange Council compiled data comparing each state as part of its publication titled, “Rich States, Poor States: 2011 ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.”
“In this last fall, Rhode Island lawmakers followed … the Utah blueprint to enact pension reform in that state,” Williams said. “It’s more about financial reality than anything else.”
Utah also finished among the top states in several of 15 other subcategories, but was a mediocre 38th for its relatively high sales tax structure.
Overall, he said Utah has developed a viable business-friendly environment that should help the state maintain its high ranking for the foreseeable future.
“Utah has pro-business policies that span the gamut of tax regulation and labor policy that have a predictable future that makes investment in Utah very attractive for businesses,” Williams said.
Gov. Gary Herbert said the ranking validates the strategies employed by the state to bolster Utah’s economy.
“We have good principles where we live within our means, do not have excessive debt, have competitive tax rates and sensible business regulations that create this business-friendly environment,” Herbert said Thursday.