“Utah is widely regarded as one of the best managed states in America. What impact have Republican principles had on the success of our state? How can the Utah model help address the challenges facing America?”
By Cindy Cossairt
Let me begin my essay by stating I have a different perspective, “from the outside looking in”. I was not raised in Utah, nor did I have any relatives that resided within the state. I chose to retire in the state of Utah. I could have selected any state within the United States of America or even chosen to have retired out of the country, but I did my research and I’m happy with my final choice - Utah! More specifically, Heber Valley!
Once you reach a certain stage in your life (in my case, retirement), your goals, outlook and desires for the future become more clearly focused. I was looking for a location that shared my political views (conservative), the cost of living index was favorable (now that I’m on a fixed income), and had opportunities for recreational activities. Being able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Heber Valley was an added bonus. Once I moved here, I was pleased to learn that you must show identification to be allowed to vote in Utah. Upon attending my first public meeting, I was pleasantly surprised that the meeting was opened by both a ‘Prayer’ and the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’, something that wasn’t done in my previous state. Sometimes it’s these little things that locals may take for granted, but it means so much to those of us that lived in other states without these protocols.
The founding fathers of our government had a belief in God. They were grateful for life and liberty and based the government on a moral and spiritual foundation. This was expressed in the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Utah has a reputation for protecting religious liberties and safeguarding religious freedoms. The Utah Republican party platform declares the support for government based upon these Godly values and affirms the right to religious expression, including prayer, in both private and public venues.
The Republican party principle of limited government and taxation are a contributing factor for Utah’s successful economy. Republicans have a strong history of supporting families and communities. A belief that individuals and businesses should be free from government intrusion and remembering that over regulation can become an impediment to productivity. Citizens must oppose unreasonable and intrusive federal mandates and overreach, as it relates to budget issues and managing Utah’s public lands. Taxation should only be for essential public needs. It’s up to our elected officials to control, simplify, reduce or eliminate taxes whenever possible. Our elected leaders should serve the people, not special interest groups. The best politicians serve with honesty, integrity, morality and accountability.
Under article XII, section 20 of the Utah Constitution, it requires the free market system as state policy. Utah is attractive for companies to relocate because of the low cost of living; an educated workforce with fluency in a variety of second languages; a connection to large universities; an international airport; a business-friendly environment without over regulations; a diversified population; and the natural beauty of our surrounding environment. According to Governor Herbert in the 2015 State of the State address, Utah has one of the strongest and most diverse economies in America. “We have the ability to invest in important areas that will drive our economy for decades to come”. At the end of 2014, Utah had a revenue surplus of 166 million dollars. Utah is one of the fastest growing states in America. Governor Herbert further states, “Our task is to take advantage of the opportunities that come with growth while addressing the challenges that growth presents.” These areas include the balanced management of our air, land and water. The implementation of air quality standards that will decrease emissions by using new technology, to find funding solutions for long term roadway improvements, and create more infrastructure for our water supply systems.
Educational goals and standards have long been debated in many political forums. Administrators, teachers and parents need to come together and plan for the future. Learning from past failures and gaining knowledge from our successes will lead to better student achievement. Students must learn the importance of the Constitution, the free market economy, and the responsibilities of the diplomatic process (aka: Voting!!). The best education has local control with two criteria, what we teach and how we teach it. However, the most important component, is accountability to the taxpaying citizens. According to the Republican party platform, parents have the primary right and responsibility to educate their children. They have the right to choose between public, private or home education.
Another area that makes Utah stand apart from other states is that the State Constitution requires a balanced budget. The state cannot spend more money then what it receives through taxes, federal funds, or any other revenue sources. According to the Libertas Institute (article dated 1/30/15), 32.8% of the state budget is comprised of federal funds. The Common Core Grant (re-branded as Utah Core by the Department of Education) and Healthy Utah (the Medicaid expansion program) further intertwines Utah to dependence on the federal government and expanding bureaucracy. In fact, the citizens of Utah pay more in taxes than what it receives back from the Federal government. But keep in mind, whenever there are federal funds coming into the state, there are inevitable strings attached.
The Utah State Legislature works in Appropriations Committees to determine State funding. Each new bill or proposal has fiscal notes attached that estimate the costs or revenue of enacting that legislation. The fiscal note also determines if there is a one-time cost or an ongoing impact to state revenues or state expenditures. Every bill must be voted upon by both the house and the senate and signed by the Governor before becoming law, and it must fit within the budget for that year. It’s a lot of work to do within the 45 day window of the Legislative session. Utah’s elected senators and representatives serve on a part-time basis. They still have jobs or own businesses, so they understand that over regulation could affect their own livelihood.
The Utah Republican party opposes illegal immigration and granting government benefits to those illegally living within the United States. We would not have encountered the problems we have today if current laws against employing illegal immigrants had been previously vigorously enforced. We have the right and duty to defend and secure our National borders and shorelines. However, the Republican party welcomes those immigrants that have lawfully entered into the United States and have become productive citizens through their hard work, dedication and tenacity.
Unfortunately, some of our own citizens have become reliant on government assistance programs. Utah has many charitable and religious organizations that the individual or family may turn to before applying for governmental programs. The Republican party would like to require that those people that ultimately end up as welfare recipients, be required to work towards self sufficiency.
Another important Utah Republican principle is adhering to the rule of law and sovereignty. The tenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States defines federal powers as those enumerated in the Constitution and reserves all other powers to the states and to the people. We need to keep to those limits and ensure federal powers don’t exceed those granted by the Constitution. Republicans have a long history of believing that individuals, not government, make the best decisions...and those decisions are best made by individuals close to home. Personal responsibility as given in the second amendment (the right to bear arms), and the foundation of our society (traditional marriage) are constantly under attack by special interest groups. Laws change with the ebb and flow of society, but the Constitution must be valued, honored and upheld. As citizens, it is our responsibility to elect politicians and hold them accountable for their actions, or as the case may be, their inaction.
The best summation for why Utah is one of the best managed states can be found in the Utah Republican party mission statement:
“The Republican party is a party by the people and for the people.
We appreciate the productivity of our citizens,
Affirm the infinite worth of all individuals,
And seek the best possible quality of life for all.
We invite all citizens to join us in working together for a better Utah.”
This is the basis for building a firm foundation for a successful, thriving state. The Federal government would be in much better shape today if they were to adhere to the strict interpretation of the Constitution, recognizing State Sovereignty, and the limited role of government in regards to both regulation and taxation. Hopefully, one day the Federal Government will also learn to live within a budget, just like we do here in Utah!