Utah has rightly been recognized as one of the best managed states in the nation, primarily due to its conservative approach to fiscal policy. Two recently published infographics from the Tax Foundation highlight what this looks like.
The first is a map ranking the 50 states based on the rate of growth in state government spending between 2001 and 2011, adjusted for inflation and population growth. As the map shows, state government direct spending, per person, in Utah grew 20.9 percent over that decade, good for 41st highest – or more properly, 10th lowest – in the nation.
Utah has performed similarly well in growth of state tax collections, adjusted for inflation and population growth. Between 2001 and 2011, Utah’s inflation-adjusted state tax collections per person actually went down 14.4 percent. That put Utah at 43rd highest – or 8th lowest – in America.
The Tax Foundation notes that one reason tax collections have gone down while state spending has gone up is “a huge increase in federal aid to state governments in the past few years.” With a total deficit of $68 trillion according to the American Institute of CPAs – leading the U.S. Government Accountability Office to comment “the current structure of the federal budget is unsustainable” – it is highly likely that federal funding to Utah will significantly decrease over time, even though we do not know exactly when the other shoe will fall.
The good news is that Utah’s fiscally conservative approach should help the state weather the coming storms, as long as we find ways to capture the fiscal wisdom and prudence of the present for the sake of the future.