Utah is faring better financially than most other state governments - which overall are in their worst shape in 10 years, the National Governors' Association said Wednesday.
For example, it said Utah is among a minority of states that has not had to cut its 1991 budget after passage because of problems from the recession. Meanwhile, 29 other states have cut more than $8 billion out of their enacted 1991 budgets.Utah also plans no tax increases. But 26 other states are in the process of raising their taxes by a total of $10.3 billion - the largest single-year increase since 1978.
And Utah is among a minority of states that estimate tax collections will be higher than originally expected this year.
Talking about problems of the recession nationally, governors' association Executive Director Raymond C. Scheppach said, "Revenue won't grow as fast as it did in the 1980s, but states will still face spiraling health-care costs, growing prison populations and increasing needs in education, children's programs, infrastructure and the environment."
He complained the states' plight is made worse by the federal government shifting more responsibility for some programs to the states.
For example, "When Congress passes still more costly Medicaid mandates, states often have had to rob other critical programs - including prevention-oriented health services and social services - to pay for the increased cost," he said. And Utah was among 37 states that spent more than originally budgeted for Medicaid in 1991.
Scheppach said the most important indicator of a state's fiscal health is its total year-end balance. Nationally, the average is now just 2 percent - the lowest since 1983, according to an association study.
As in other states, Utah's year-end balance is continuing to decline. It was 7.9 percent in fiscal 1990, is expected to be 4.1 percent in 1991 and is projected to be 3.4 percent in 1992 - which is still 70 percent higher than the national average.
Even though many states are raising taxes, Scheppach said average "state spending is growing just 5.2 percent this year, down from the original projection of 6.5 percent."
State spending in Utah, according to the association, grew 7.5 percent in fiscal 1991 but is expected to grow only a small 1.8 percent in 1992.
Also, 29 states estimated their tax collection will be lower than the estimates they used in putting together their 1991 budgets. Utah, however, expects revenues to be higher.
Utah expects $732 million from sales tax, up from the projected $730 million. It expects $690 million from personal income tax, up from $645 million. But it expects less in corporate income tax - $90 million, down from $93 million.
Another sign that Utah may be doing better than other states is that it is one of only 12 states that can afford and plan cost-of-living increases for welfare payments through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program for fiscal 1992.
The governors' association said Utah and its neighbors in the Rocky Mountains are, as a region, doing better than most.