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Government Spending Amendment: Taming the Beast of Utah Government Spending

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Uploaded on Dec 9, 2011

Did you know that Utah's state government in 2010 spent more than 75 percent more per person in Utah than they did in 1970? And as you can see, state spending has greatly outpaced state population growth, with an especially rapid rise during the last decade. No matter how you slice it, state government is much larger today than it used to be.

When government takes more in taxes, it means less money for you and for me. It means less money for our families, and less money for employers to expand their businesses and create more jobs. We have less, the government has more, and it finds ways of using coercive law and regulations to intrude more into our lives -- into our healthcare, our family relationships, and our ability as communities to solve our own problems.

How much has Utah government grown? Let's put it this way: in 1969, it took a median-income Utah household five years to earn what the state spent in just one hour. In 2009, it took that same household nearly 25 years to earn what the state spent in one hour—a five-fold increase. Meanwhile, our population only grew by two and a half times.

In order to protect freedom in our families, in the economy, and in our communities, we need to control government spending growth, and we can. During the 2012 legislative session, Sutherland Institute is proposing a government spending amendment to do exactly that.

The amendment will be a powerful tool to protect Utahns from policies that spend big during the good times, and cut big when times get tough.

Let's see how it works: We amend the Utah Constitution so that state government spending growth is limited based on growth in population and inflation. This allows for reasonable spending growth to account for a growing state and increasing costs.

Surplus revenues would then be used to pay down debt, or would be placed in a rainy day account or emergency funds to help fund important government services during bad economic times or after a natural disaster—this will help minimize large budget cuts that can be harmful to some of Utah's most vulnerable groups.

Once legislators determine the rainy day and emergency accounts are sufficiently funded, any remaining tax revenues will be returned to us, the taxpayers.

Because this policy will be part of the state constitution, it will be protected from interest group pressures and powerful lobbying organizations.

The amendment will also be flexible, leaving the details of implementation up to the legislature. And it allows the legislature to increase the spending growth limit as needed with broad legislative consent, such as a three-fifths majority vote.

This government spending amendment is a prudent step to ensure that Utah remains one of the most financially stable states in the country, as it has rightly been praised. Further, the government spending amendment will mean tens of thousands more jobs in the private sector and thousands more dollars for working families in Utah. In other words, the government spending amendment will mean Utah remains a haven of freedom for Utahns and an example of wise stewardship to the rest of the nation.

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