Utah will likely continue losing residents in search of jobs each year, but the state's population still is expected to grow by up to 1.5 percent annually in the 1990s, an economic and business researcher says.
Thayne Robson, director of the bureau of economic and business research at the University of Utah, said Wednesday the state's economy during the next 10 years should be similar to that of the 1960s - the years before the rapid expansion of energy-related industries.He also labeled three tax-limiting initiatives "mischievous and counterproductive" and said there is no correlation between tax cuts and prosperity. However, if voters pass the initiatives, the effect on the economy will be slight, he said.
Speaking to government, education and business officials at the Governor's Conference on Utah's Future, Robson urged Utahns to save and invest more to ensure economic growth. Utahns will have to save despite earning incomes that are slightly below the national average.
Robson acknowledged the state is at a disadvantage because a small percentage of its residents are between the ages of 45 and 60, the years when people generally earn high incomes and save and invest heavily.
"We've survived and done well because we've learned how to sacrifice and we'll have to keep that up," he said.
Despite a slackening of growth in the 1980s, Utah's economy is strong, Robson said. But Utah's growth is not likely to keep pace with the number of children born in recent years.
Robson said statistics show more people have left Utah in the past four years than have moved to the state. He said some residents between the ages of 20 and 35 probably will continue leaving the state after finishing their formal education.
"That will become a common characteristic of the state because we produce more people than jobs," he said.
Responding to a question from the audience, Robson said supporters of the tax-limitation initiatives do not understand the need for cooperation between government and private business.
The economy will suffer if government does not have the necessary funds to build and repair roads and to educate its children, he said.
Backers of the initiatives, which would reduce property and income taxes and provide tax breaks for parents whose children attend private schools, claim they will stimulate the state's economy by increasing consumers' spendable income.
But Robson's comments on the initiatives were tame compared with those of Chase Peterson, university president. He said the initiatives will harm education and economic development.
"How many executives will choose to come to Utah with their families if they have the perception that somehow their children will be handicapped in terms of education?" he asked.
"Our children are an enormous asset, if we can just afford to educate them."
Gov. Norm Bangerter also addressed the conference, saying the state should create 20,000 new jobs yearly until the year 2000. He also challenged high schools to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate by the year 1990.
"Our main selling point in the future, I believe, will be a plentiful work force," he said.
Bangerter said Utahns should look forward, not dwell on the way things were when the state was smaller and more rural.
"I don't think we should be here today in any sort of panic situation," he said. "We're not worse off. We're in the strongest position, as a nation and a state, that we've ever been in."