By Erica Teichert
If all 50 states graduated today, Utah would be the valedictorian. The Pew Center on the States awarded Utah the highest GPA, an A-minus, for government performance in a report released Monday.
“Utah is a very good example of a state whose strong focus on making sound financial decisions is paying dividends for its citizens,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States.
All 50 states were graded on four categories: money, people, infrastructure and information. Utah received an A grade in money, infrastructure and information and a B-plus grade in people. The state had no real weaknesses, but the center rated strategic workforce planning, hiring and managing for performance as moderate.
“Utah manages itself with savvy business acumen,” the Pew Center for the States Web site said. “Financial decisions are made wisely, with an eye toward return on investment and long-term performance in all facets of state government.”
The center noticed Utah”s emphasis on financial planning for the future as well as its ability to discover problems within the government. It noted favoritism exists in the Department of Corrections, but unlike many states, Utah had the tools to uncover the problem.
“The state government addresses challenges proactively,” said Lisa Roskelley, the governor”s spokeswoman. “Utah has gone to great lengths to ensure that we”re using taxpayer money effectively and efficiently.”
The center praised Utah”s efficiency and the fluidity between the executive and legislative branches.
“We work well together between the legislative and executive branch and there is a spirit of cooperation,” said House Speaker Greg Curtis in a news release. “We strive to do what”s best for the citizens of the State of Utah.”
Virginia and Washington state governments were also given A-minus grades, but both of those states received mixtures of straight As, A-minuses and B-pluses while Utah received no A-minuses. The national average grade was a B-minus.
New Hampshire received the lowest grade, a D-plus, and Rhode Island was the second lowest, earning a C-minus.
“In truth, while New Hampshire may provide fewer services than other states, the notion that its finances are emblematic of old-fashioned New England Puritanism just isn”t true,” the report states.
Last year, Utah received an F from the center for campaign finance disclosure.
“Utah law requires candidates to report contributors giving $50 or more, but does not require disclosure of donor occupation or employee data or cumulative amount donated,” the report stated.
Electronic disclosure of campaign contributions is voluntary in Utah, but the state reports that 100 percent of statewide candidates and 80 percent of legislative candidates electronically file their campaign finances. However, users of the Web site providing the finance information had a difficult time finding data and were skeptical about the data”s accuracy.
“The governor has always been in favor of campaign finance disclosure,” Roskelley said. “There are some pieces of legislation being considered this year.”