Even a Blue State on the East Coast is Taking Note of Utah

Opinion written by Connecticut State Senator Rob Kane

We have eliminated all structural imbalances in our budget. In the first two years of the downturn, we cut two billion dollars out of the budget. We did it by eliminating programs and cutting the size and staffing of government down to 2000 levels.”

Unfortunately, those refreshing and sensible words were not uttered recently by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy or any other official in the Malloy administration. They were spoken by a top economic development official…from Utah.

As states like Connecticut struggle to balance budgets and pay liabilities during hard economic times, Utah has managed to stay strong. How?

Utah found the political will to cut $2 billion from the state budget. The downsizing and belt-tightening has helped Utah to live within its means and keep taxes low. Meanwhile, here in the Constitution State, we’ve gone in the opposite direction. The governor and legislative Democrats have raised spending by $1 billion and raised taxes by a record $3.8 billion. The most recent study by the Tax Foundation found Connecticut leading the pack, in the category of taxes paid per person. At $7,256 per person, Connecticut easily outdistances our closest competitor, New Jersey. Nutmeggers pay $505 more per person than Garden State residents.

Success stories like Utah can show leaders like Gov. Malloy the way out of our state’s prolonged struggles. For starters, compare Utah’s business-friendly 5-percent tax rate to Connecticut’s 9 percent.

Then compare Utah’s 6-percent unemployment rate to Connecticut’s 8.5 percent. Lower state taxes and lean state governments are attractive to businesses with money to invest.

When states like Utah gets their fiscal houses in order, businesses view them as islands of stability. When a state like Connecticut doubles the tax on businesses and approves regulations such as the burdensome paid sick leave mandate, businesses view them as chaotic and unfriendly. When a state like Utah can boast of a 5 percent tax on businesses, it essentially hangs the “We’re Open for Business” sign at each of its borders. Here in Connecticut, state government hand-picks handfuls of “winners” and lavishes tens of millions of your tax dollars on them just to convince them to keep jobs here. The rest of Connecticut’s struggling businesses — who all lose in this scenario — watch this policy and ask why they don’t get similar preferential treatment.

For example, Gov. Malloy recently offered a Westport hedge fund run by a multi-billionaire $115 million in your tax dollars so the company could move to Stamford. When asked why he did it, the governor sounded like he was putting up ransom money.

“We need to keep these people in Connecticut,” he said.

Now imagine you are a running a competing Fairfield County hedge fund. You have just seen your competitor get $115 million, while you get nothing. Wouldn’t you be a little miffed at this unlevel business playing field? Wouldn’t you take a look at other places to grow and expand as a result?

Let’s hope that Gov. Malloy takes a few pages out of Utah’s government playbook and tries to make The Beehive State a model for Connecticut’s future. Cut spending.

Cut taxes. Cut the red tape on businesses and quit picking winners and losers. The state motto of Utah is simply “Industry.” Given the fact that the state is getting national acclaim for its ability to attract all kinds of jobs, that motto seems appropriate.

Published: Friday, August 31, 2012 by Foothills Media Group http://bit.ly/Rx4g4e

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