How would you like to have a brand new 42-inch plasma high-definition television to watch your favorite athletes compete in the 2008 Olympics? Or better yet, how would you like to fly to Beijing in time to see the opening ceremonies in person? At the rate the Utah state government is spending taxpayers' money, it would not take long to make that happen, especially as Utah begins a new budget year today.
Taking a quick look at the Utah state spending clock, which can be found on the Sutherland Institute's home page, www.sutherlandinstitute.org, the state now spends almost $31.5 million a day. That is just over $1.3 million per hour, or $363 per second.
At that rate, the state could buy every adult in Salt Lake County that deluxe HD-TV valued at $799.99 in less than three weeks (19 days, to be exact). Or if travel is the taxpayer perk of choice, the state could purchase a $1,655 round-trip ticket to Beijing for nearly all Salt Lake County adults in 38 days, just in time to see the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron on Aug. 8. If residents don't mind waiting until after the Olympics are over, the state could buy every man, woman and child in Utah their own HD-TV in just over two months (71 days).
By the numbers, Utah's new budget will be nearly $11.5 billion for fiscal year 2009, an increase of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in new spending that state legislators approved for the fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
Adjusted for inflation, the state budget has increased by nearly 29 percent over the 2004 budget (the year Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. took office) while annual cost-of-living increases have hovered around 4 percent over the past decade.
As President Reagan once commented, "Man is not free unless government is limited. ... As government expands, liberty contracts." Either Utah taxpayers are overpaying for government or that 29 percent means the government has significantly grown.
While government plays a vital and necessary role in this great state, it should be a limited role. Unfortunately, the natural tendency of government is to expand, not contract. In fact it has been quipped that the nearest thing to eternal life on this earth is a government program.
Government taxation and spending are two of the most significant ways government influences Utah families. In order to keep government influence within its proper role, it is essential that Utahns know what their elected officials are doing with the taxpayers dollars and hold them accountable at the ballot box when those public servants fail to keep government in check.
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As the late Sen. Everett M. Dirksen once said, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money." And for Utah residents, real money in the form of tax cuts and reduction of the size of government could do wonders to ease the pressure on family budgets struggling to fill their gas tanks, trim their own expenses and manage through a tough economy. It is time that Utah's taxpayers start taking home the gold.
Katie Christensen is the public relations manager at the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank in Salt Lake City.