(Jim Clark) – Several years ago Governor Kenny Guinn (R-NV) addressed a crowd of Incline/Crystal Bay residents at a gathering at the Hyatt. During Q&A, he was asked: “What can be done to fix Nevada?” He responded that we should execute a friendly takeover of Utah. He went on to cite numerous beneficial characteristics of Utah’s economy as well as its relatively low incidence of problem areas. So when my wife made plans to visit her sister in Provo last week I decided to tag along and see if things in the Beehive State were as rosy as Gov. Guinn described.
Driving through Salt Lake City on I-15 quite we saw a lot of buildings under construction. I got off I-15 and drove through Salt Lake City and saw no blight, evidence of poverty or liquor stores. (In Utah alcoholic beverages are sold only in state run stores although ever since the Olympics restaurants sell beer, wine and cocktails.) The scarcity of alcoholic beverages as well as other vices stems from the fact that about 62% of Utahan’s are members of the Mormon Church.
The economic activity came as no surprise. Forbes Magazine named Utah number one on its list of best states for business for years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Utah’s rate of economic growth has averaged 2.3% annually since 2006 while most other states (including Nevada) had contracting economies due to the serious recession. Forbes cites three reasons for Utah’s attraction to business: taxes, its educated labor force and a favorable regulatory climate. A 2012 Gallup national survey found Utah to be the “best state to live in”. The Beehive State has a flat 5% personal and corporate net income tax rate, a young (average age 29) educated work force and a Republican governor who incessantly reviews business regulations to eliminate or modify them. Because most Mormons go on a mission for their church, many to Central and South American countries, about one third of the workforce is multilingual.
My wife’s sister and brother-in-law are a fairly typical Mormon family. They had eleven children who went on to continue propagating to where the family now has 64 immediate members. Each member, male and female, was either enrolled in college (primarily Brigham Young University) or had graduated and gone on to post graduate school. Every family member is a Republican which also typifies Utah (In the 2012 election 73% of Utahans voted for Mitt Romney). I was asked numerous times: “what are we going to do about Harry Reid?” That did not reflect a concern over Reid’s political party as much as the fact that they perceive that Reid does not “act like a Mormon.” He always seems to be picking political fights and will never be forgiven for announcing in 2012 on the floor of the Senate that: “somebody told me that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes for 10 years,” a contention that proved totally false.
Demographically Utah is similar to Nevada having a population at the last census of just under 3 million. 81% were white and 13% were Hispanic. Utah also outperforms Nevada in K-12 education. According to the US Department of Education Utah ranks 50th in total per-pupil spending at $7,749 but 13th nationally in 8th grade reading scores and 27th in 8th grade math scores. Nevada’s spending is 44th at $9,650 per pupil but 38th in 8th grade reading and 41st in 8th grade math.
Utah recently reinstated the firing squad for death penalty cases prompting comedian Dave Letterman to quip: “they use a blindfold but no cigarette because they’re all Mormons.” All kidding aside Utah has a lot to be proud of.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Nevada and Washoe County Republican Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.