Every day, I have the privilege of working with more than 2,000 legislators from across the country and from both sides of the aisle. I have the opportunity to work with innovative business leaders who are creating jobs and growing the economy. And I get to do this alongside a staff of professionals who believe, like I do, that free markets and limited governments are the surest ways to build a stronger America.
As the executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, I see first-hand how the exchange of ideas and an open forum in which to discuss them can — and has — made a real difference in the lives of working Americans. I've seen our members work together to promote and pass resolutions that advance common sense solutions to some of the most pressing economic issues of the day. It's gratifying to see this work happen, and it's important that it continues.
This week, ALEC members are gathered here in Salt Lake City to do just that. Our meeting theme, "Compete, innovate and put more Americans back to work," is more than just something we say. It's something we take very seriously. Because the fact of the matter is that while Washington is gridlocked, the real legislative activity is happening in the states. Our members join ALEC because they're genuinely interested in solutions — and we are effective in delivering them.
Earlier this year, a small but active group of ideological extremists put ALEC in the headlines precisely for this reason. Their attacks were damaging, and they represented politics at its very worst, but they do not change the fact that ALEC has a legislative track record of which we are very, very proud.
Throughout our history, our members have worked to support free-market health care; to create a more transparent, accountable government; to place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice; and to advance tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur competitiveness. And we look forward to even more success.
This is why we have doubled down on our commitment to the economic issues that have always guided our policy decisions: limited governments, free-markets and federalism. ALEC is not a social policy organization — which is why we clarified our mission and focus as an organization right as the current economic conditions are demanding it.
Today, ALEC is in every state capital working with lawmakers of all political stripes to develop policies that drive more job creation and greater economic growth. Without question, this is where the American people want their elected leaders and the companies with which they choose to do business to focus their attention. And when they do, the results speak for themselves.
In April, we released our annual "Rich States, Poor States" study. Economists examined economic policies in all 50 states and determined Utah to be the state with the strongest economic outcome in the nation. This is due to Utah legislators' commitment to maintaining a competitive fiscal policy, a flat 5 percent tax rate and an employee pension reform effort. In 2012, the state was able to pass a balanced budget, something the federal government is unable to do, without raising taxes. Yet earlier this year, legislators here were able to announce more than $400 million in new spending for education, health care, law enforcement and roads.
These are exactly the types of policies that ALEC members work to advance. The opportunities for collaboration and partnership that ALEC provides are exactly what we need more of. Year after year, our growing membership numbers tell us that companies and legislators want more of it, too.
Our annual meeting represents an opportunity to do just that, and we are grateful to the people of Salt Lake City for the warm welcome we have received. We're eager to get to work, and we're grateful to be here in your city to do it.
Ron Scheberle is the executive director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, based in Washington, D.C.