For the third consecutive year, Utah state officials have earned the top honor given by the U.S. Government Finance Officers Association, officials said.

The award, which Utah shares this year with six states, is the highest recognition any government organization can receive, Gov. Norm Bangerter said in a prepared statement."Its attainment recognizes the superior operation of the state's financial affairs," he said.

More importantly, it also helps the state keep its triple-A bond rating, the highest rating possible.

The award also comes at a time when the state is being assailed by backers of three tax-limiting initiatives, who claim residents are over-taxed and state programs are run inefficiently.

"It's a difficult award to achieve," Gordon Crabtree, state finance director, said of the recognition. Crabtree was acknowledged by the association as the person most responsible for the award.

Crabtree said the award shows state government is functioning efficiently. To receive the award, the state had to withstand the scrutiny of independent auditors.

Other state receiving the award were Minnesota, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Illinois.