A tale of 2 Utahs: Group hopes lawmakers take steps to tackle urban, rural divide

This article originally appeared in The Deseret News. Read it in its entirety here.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Wasatch Front economy is booming, and Utah as a whole enjoys one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

That is one snapshot of the state.

The other view, that of rural Utah, is a starkly different profile with some counties experiencing a stagnant economy, high poverty rates and job losses.

report released Thursday seeks to bring awareness to the urban-rural divide in Utah and keep it in the conversation of lawmakers as they prepare to convene a 45-day legislative session later this month.

“What we wanted to do is make sure it stays on everybody’s radar, especially state lawmakers,” said Lauren Simpson, policy director with ABU Education Fund.

“We want to make sure it remains a vital part of the conversation.”

The ABU Education Fund, a sister organization to Alliance for a Better Utah — a progressive watchdog organization — released Reaching Across the Urban-Rural Divide, providing a snapshot of 16 rural Utah counties.

The report examines poverty rates, median income and unemployment rates, and provides a glimpse of these counties when it comes to education, health care and unique county circumstances.

Daggett County, for example, has a high median income of $85,000 and a poverty rate lower than the state as a whole, but it is struggling to haul in revenue with the forced closure of its county jail.

That reality is in sharp contrast to the state of Utah, where lawmakers are considering what to do with a hefty state revenue surplus of $1.3 billion.

Simpson said wise policymakers will be careful to make decisions that consider the state as a whole, not just one economic profile.

“We need to make policies that benefit everyone in the state, not just those who live along the I-15 corridor,” she said.

This article originally appeared in The Deseret News. Read it in its entirety here.

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