Given how Utah regularly ranks high in surveys of the best-run states, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Council of State Governments chose Gov. Gary Herbert as its president for 2018.
The organization seeks to bind branches of state governments together in compacts and other arrangements that help them share the best practices in areas from educational excellence to prison reform. The governor’s appointment is significant in that the current political dynamic in Washington serves to shuttle more policy decisions to state capitals.
States may be left largely on their own, for example, to grapple with a tattered health insurance system as Congress and the Trump administration work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, a lack of congressional action has left states to forge their own solutions to recouping lost tax revenues from online sales, as Utah has done with Amazon and other retailers.
States will be asserting more influence in a wide array of policy issues, either by choice or as a result of less federal guidance. That Utah should figure prominently in this trend, even if only in a symbolic way, is understandable given its bona fides in the area of prudent public management.
This year, Utah ranked fourth in an analysis of the most fiscally sound states by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Separately, the business-oriented website “24/7 Wall St.” ranked Utah second among best-run states on economic parameters including tax burden, government debt management, unemployment rates and credit ratings. The state regularly falls at or near the top in the rankings of best states for business by the cable channel CNBC. Also this year, the Center for Digital Government, a national research institute, named Utah the best state for online services through its various websites.
The Council of State Governments is wise to select a president whose state is looked upon as a template for effective management. The organization seeks to improve relations between government branches within states and across borders. It works to facilitate interstate compacts among states for purposes of sharing resources and fostering consistencies in areas such as interstate transportation and environmental regulation. Utah is a partner in 37 interstate compacts.
States traditionally have sought ways to cooperate in matters of common interest, which is becoming more important in the digital age and during a time of migration. Herbert, who also has served as chairman of the National Governors Association, says he will use his position at the CSG to encourage the sharing of best practices among government entities.
When it comes to that, Utah can benefit as an importer as well as exporter. Despite the accolades for an effectively run government, Utah could use help addressing things such as transportation planning, water resource management, education funding and environmental quality.
Utahns should be grateful their state is well regarded and that its governor has been tapped for national leadership roles. As 2018 proceeds, maintaining an enviable level of prosperity and quality of life will require a continuation of strong leadership, innovation and cooperation with partners in states facing similar challenges.