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Utah basks in praise of conservative group

Published January 19, 2012 7:28 pm

Politics • American Legislative Exchange Council once again singles out Beehive State.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For the fourth straight year, a conservative public policy think tank ranked Utah as the state with the best economic outlook due to its steady drive to lower taxes and reduce regulations on businesses.

The American Legislative Exchange Council made the announcement at the Capitol, with Gov. Gary Herbert, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate President Michael Waddoups on hand to accept the accolades.

Herbert, in fact, boasted that Utah would rank first again next year.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you a year from now," Herbert said to Jonathan Williams, one of the authors of ALEC's report, "Rich States, Poor States."

The governor — fresh of off news that unemployment had dipped to 6 percent and less than a week from his State of the State address — said things were looking so rosy, he hoped the Utah Legislature would pass a bill that would give businesses a tax cut.

The 102-page report ranks states based on a variety of factors, including economic policies and regulations that ALEC believes stymie growth for business.

For example, the report takes California to task for a cap-and-trade plan that it argues impedes business while doing little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said Herbert should be "ashamed" to get a high ranking from ALEC.

"They are a bunch of global corporations that are scheming to write local laws that boost the corporate benefactors at the expense of people in the state," Dabakis said. "This is not a fair-minded organization."

He said ALEC has written laws that strip communities of access to good education, allow companies to pollute without penalty and "have a diabolical disregard" for local populations.

Waddoups, however, took Utah's ranking in the report as a chance to slam states that ranked near the bottom of ALEC's list — including California and Illinois.

He mocked California Gov. Jerry Brown's plea for money as the state faces serious economic woes. "You don't see that in Utah," Waddoups said.

Lockhart said ALEC's ranking and Utah's approach to keeping the economy strong was in line with the state's family values.

"When our children grow up, they can get a job here and live here and we can see our grandchildren," Lockhart said. "That is a huge deal for the people of Utah. We hold family very dear and if there are ways we can keep our families here ... that is what it's all about."

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero