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House says no to tapping into alcohol revenue to fund schools

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28 2013 5:40 p.m. MST

HB271 would have set aside 25 percent of future Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control profits for public education funding. But the bill failed in a 24-47 vote after several lawmakers objected to the earmarking of public funds and expressed concern that the state would be indirectly creating an incentive to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A plan to fund education with revenue from alcohol sales was cut short Thursday by representatives in the Utah House.

HB271, sponsored by Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, would have set aside 25 percent of future Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control profits for public education funding.

But the bill failed in a 24-47 vote after several lawmakers objected to the earmarking of public funds and expressed concern that the state would be indirectly creating an incentive to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said he was conflicted on the bill. He described Bird's efforts to fund education as a worthy and needed cause but said he's already uncomfortable with the state benefiting from the sale of a product that most lawmakers and their constituents don't believe in consuming without then attaching that revenue to the education of children.

"As much as it hurts me to argue against increased funding for education, I have to stand in opposition to the bill," Wilcox said.

Bird presented the bill as a potential solution to lingering fears over the effects of the pending sequester of federal funds. He said because the bill is based on future profits, the earmark would not pull money away from other state programs but would provide ongoing supplemental funds to schools.

Bird also explained that some DABC revenue is already used to fund education, such as the school lunch program.

"Here's an opportunity, representatives, to be able to put up to $7 million the first year, and more ongoing, into public education without raising a dime of taxes," he said.

Other representatives, including Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, took issue with the further earmarking of state funds. Layton said she loves education but opposes the bill from the business perspective that the state should have maximum discretion of its funds.

"We may be able to give that money to education on year-by-year basis," she said. "But there may be years when we need it for other things."

Contributing: Mary Mellor

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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