Utah enjoyed a successful 2016 and, as the new year begins, the state can expect low unemployment, strong population growth, a vigorous economy, a healthy state budget, and solid, steady, conservative governance.
One of Utah’s strengths is a diverse economy not overly dependent on one economic sector. States that are too heavily dependent on one sector, such as energy, are having economic problems, resulting in state budget shortfalls.
Here are some reasons you should be glad you live in Utah:
- Montana is delaying or eliminating 30 highway projects across the state to deal with budget shortfalls, and Highway Patrol positions could also be cut.
- Colorado legislative economists say the state faces a $330 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.
- New Mexico is facing a deficit of $69 million in the current fiscal year, and revenues are running $300 million less than projected state spending levels for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Lawmakers have had to slash spending for public schools, universities and most state agencies, in some cases by more than 7 percent. New Mexico also has a 6.7 percent unemployment rate, the second highest in the country.
- Alaska has a massive deficit, with the governor shaving agency spending, setting two-day furloughs for state workers, shutting down a $570 million road project, and reducing payments to citizens from the permanent oil fund.
- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin estimates the state will have a budget hole of $500 million to $600 million for the next year. The number could go up or down, depending on energy prices.
- Kansas and Hawaii have also delayed road projects, amounting to $300 million in Kansas. Kansas also needs an additional $177 million for its public pension system.
- Nebraska faces a projected shortfall of $900 million below estimated expenses.
Utah is also blessed with having leaders who, for the most part, are not extreme, seek to serve all Utahns, and forthrightly take action and solve problems.
In some states, like North Carolina, politics has become dysfunctional. The Republican legislature there passed laws to restrict the incoming Democratic governor’s ability to govern the state. An agreement that would have resolved the enormously divisive transgender bathroom issue fell apart at the last minute, leaving the state’s politics in disarray.
Finally, while public safety is always a concern, Utah communities enjoy relatively low crime rates, and respect exists for police agencies and law and order.
Contrast that with many of the country’s biggest cities, where crime rates are rising, especially murders and violent crime. Some police agencies are in crisis. Accusations of police brutality have demoralized law enforcement agencies and reduced pro-active policing, resulting in rising crime. The poster child of law enforcement tragedy is Chicago, which sustained 762 homicides in 2016, up 57 percent. Shooting incidents totaled 3,550 In 2016.
States that enjoy safety, strong economies and high quality of life didn’t get there by luck or accident. Strong, capable, principled leadership is required at all levels of government, non-profits and business. Problems can’t be allowed to fester. Attentional to detail is necessary in all sectors and elements of society for success to continue.
Utah has put the ingredients together for a thriving society. But maintaining such enviable status won’t happen automatically.