For years, Utahns have been able to check a box on their state income tax return to make a donation to non-game wildlife projects.

If HB102 continues to succeed in its rounds of the Utah Legislature, taxpayers will have the same option for making additional contributions to public education.The bill would allow a Utahn filing a return to specify any amount up to the total of his return for a state or local school foundation. The money could be specified for textbooks only or contibuted to the general fund.

The sponsor, Rep. Pat Nix, R-Orem, told members of the House Education Committee many Utahns have indicated they would not mind contributing more taxes if they were certain the money would go to education. Her bill provides a mechanism to accomplish that, she said.

Supporters of the non-game wildlife checkoff objected, fearing that the amount of income that comes to the division through the checkoff would dwindle if there were competitition on the tax return.

Experience in other states indicates there is a certain pool of "givers" and that new checkoffs dilute the income for everyone, a division spokesman said. The division receives approximately $125,000 each year from the checkoff, about 17 percent of the non-game wildlife budget.

The bill has support, however, from the State Office of Education, which is trying to generate more interest in private foundations, and from the Utah Taxpayers Association.