Short takes on the news
No slop for water hogs • Utah legislators were acting responsibly when they rejected a proposal to earmark a portion of Utah's sales tax revenue to help pay for a $1 billion-plus pipeline to pump water uphill from Lake Powell to Washington County. Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, warned his colleagues on the taxation committee that they will wish they had taken the action. It's more likely lawmakers would regret taking tax money from other necessary state services and pumping it into this boondoggle. Even with statewide taxpayer support, shrinking population growth in the St. George area means there would be fewer users to pay the remaining cost. Water fees should go up, in any case, so that consumers, especially the water hogs in southern Utah but also those on the Wasatch Front, recognize that water is scarce and likely to get scarcer. A pipeline into Lake Powell could easily run dry in coming decades.
The high cost of killing • The death certificate for executed Utah prison inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner listed the cause of death as a slaying. The people of the Beehive State are the perpetrators in the deaths of convicted criminals on death row, and they pay the cost of killing them. For Gardner, taxpayers forked out $1.6 million more than they would have paid to keep him in prison for life without possibility of parole. Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, is taking the right step toward starting a discussion on capital punishment by asking for an analysis of the costs of court appeals and execution compared to life in prison. But the debate shouldn't stop there. Other questions: Does capital punishment deter other criminals? Is retribution worth the cost, and do most Utahns even favor the idea of revenge? And what of the possibility that the innocent may be executed? Utah should be seeking answers.
Busy work for schools • Utah legislators spend far too much time thinking up ways to add to the workload of Utah school districts. The latest, to require schools to account for all expenditures and provide detailed reports on the existing transparency website isn't the worst, but it would be just another unfunded mandate to divert resources needed for education to unnecessary paperwork. It's an understatement to say that Utah public schools are not rolling in dough. But if legislators fear money is being wasted, they should provide funding so school staffers can spend more time on the reports. And they should be willing to acknowledge what is more likely to be found: that schools, rather than being inefficient, are indeed stretched far too thin.